Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Universidad de La Laguna. E-38206 La Laguna (Tenerife), Spain
Phytopathogenic fungi can degrade xylan, an abundant hemicellulose in plant cell walls, by the coordinate action of a group of extracellular enzymes. Among these, endo-β-1,4-xylanases carry out the initial breakdown by cleaving internal bonds in the polymer backbone. We have isolated and characterized a gene, xyn11A coding for an endo-β-1,4-xylanase belonging to family 11 of glycosyl hydrolases. xyn11A was shown to be induced by xylan and repressed by glucose and to be expressed in planta. The disruption of xyn11A caused only a moderate decrease, about 30%, in the level of extracellular endo-β-1-4-xy-lanase activity and in the growth rate, with beechwood xylan as the only carbon source. However, deletion of the gene had a more pronounced effect on virulence, delaying the appearance of secondary lesions and reducing the average lesion size by more than 70%. Reintroducing the wild-type gene into the mutant strains reversed this phenotype back to wild type.