Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, The Minerva Center for Agricultural Biotechnology, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot 76100, Israel
Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a necrotrophic, omnivorous plant pathogen with worldwide distribution. Sclerotia of S. sclerotiorumare pigmented, multihyphal structures that play a central role in the life and infection cycles of this pathogen. Plant infection depends on the formation of melanin-rich infection cushions, and secretion of hydrolytic enzymes and oxalic acid. Type 2A Ser/Thr phosphatases (PP2As) are involved in the regulation of a variety of cellular process. In the presence of cantharidin, a PP2A-specific inhibitor, hyphal elongation and sclerotia numbers were impaired whereas sclerotial size increased. We partially inactivated PP2A by antisense expression of the gene (pph1) encoding the PP2A catalytic subunit. When antisense expression was induced, almost complete cessation of fungal growth was observed, indicative of a crucial role for PP2A in fungal growth. RNAi-based gene silencing was employed to alter the expression of the 55-kDa R2 (B regulatory subunit). Isolates in which rgb1 RNA levels were decreased were slow growing, but viable. Melanin biosynthesis, infection-cushion production, and pathogenesis were significantly impaired in the rgb1 mutants, yet theses mutants were pathogenic on wounded leaves. Reduced ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinases)-like mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) function conferred a reduction in NADPH oxidase and PP2A activity levels, suggesting a functional link between MAPK, reactive oxygen species, and PP2A activity in S. sclerotiorum.