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MgSlt2, a Cellular Integrity MAP Kinase Gene of the Fungal Wheat Pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola, Is Dispensable for Penetration but Essential for Invasive Growth

April 2006 , Volume 19 , Number  4
Pages  389 - 398

Rahim Mehrabi , 1 , 2 Theo van der Lee , 1 Cees Waalwijk , 1 and Gert H. J. Kema 1

1Wageningen University and Research Center, Plant Research International B.V., P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands; 2Agricultural Research & Education Organization, Seed & Plant Improvement Institute, P.O. Box 31585-4119, Karaj, Iran

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Accepted 2 November 2005.

Among expressed sequence tag libraries of Mycosphaerella graminicola isolate IPO323, we identified a full-length cDNA clone with high homology to the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase Slt2 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This MAP kinase consists of a 1,242-bp open reading frame, and encodes a 414-amino-acid protein. We designated this homolog MgSlt2, generated MgSlt2 knockout strains in M. graminicola isolate IPO323, and found several altered phenotypes in vitro as well as in planta. In yeast glucose broth, MgSlt2 disruptants showed a defective polarized growth in the tip cells upon aging, causing substantial local enlargements culminating in large swollen cells containing two to four nuclei. The MgSlt2 disruptants showed a significantly increased sensitivity to several fungicides, including miconazole (2×), bifonazole (>4×), imazalil (5×), and cyproconazole (10×), and were hypersensitive to glucanase. Unlike the wild type, MgSlt2 disruptants did not produce aerial mycelia and did not melanize on potato dextrose agar. Although cytological analysis in planta showed normal penetration of wheat stomata by the germ tubes of the MgSlt2 disruptants, subsequently formed hyphal filaments frequently were unable to branch out and establish invasive growth resulting in highly reduced virulence, and prevented pycnidia formation. Therefore, we conclude that MgSlt2 is a new pathogenicity factor in M. graminicola.

Additional keywords: A. tumefaciens-mediated transformation, Septoria tritici leaf blotch, transposon.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2006