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A Chitin Synthase with a Myosin-Like Motor Domain Is Essential for Hyphal Growth, Appressorium Differentiation, and Pathogenicity of the Maize Anthracnose Fungus Colletotrichum graminicola

December 2007 , Volume 20 , Number  12
Pages  1,555 - 1,567

Stefan Werner,1 Janyce A. Sugui,1 Gero Steinberg,2 and Holger B. Deising1

1Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences, Phytopathology and Plant Protection, Ludwig-Wucherer-Str. 2, D-06099 Halle (Saale), Germany; 2Max-Planck-Institute of Terrestrial Microbiology, D-35043 Marburg, Germany

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Accepted 11 August 2007.

Chitin synthesis contributes to cell wall biogenesis and is essential for invasion of solid substrata and pathogenicity of filamentous fungi. In contrast to yeasts, filamentous fungi contain up to 10 chitin synthases (CHS), which might reflect overlapping functions and indicate their complex lifestyle. Previous studies have shown that a class VI CHS of the maize anthracnose fungus Colletotrichum graminicola is essential for cell wall synthesis of conidia and vegetative hyphae. Here, we report on cloning and characterization of three additional CHS genes, CgChsI, CgChsIII, and CgChsV, encoding class I, III, and V CHS, respectively. All CHS genes are expressed during vegetative and pathogenic development. ΔCgChsI and ΔCgChsIII mutants did not differ significantly from the wild-type isolate with respect to hyphal growth and pathogenicity. In contrast, null mutants in the CgChsV gene, which encodes a CHS with an N-terminal myosin-like motor domain, are strongly impaired in vegetative growth and pathogenicity. Even in osmotically stabilized media, vegetative hyphae of ΔCgChsV mutants exhibited large balloon-like swellings, appressorial walls appeared to disintegrate during maturation, and infection cells were nonfunctional. Surprisingly, ΔCgChsV mutants were able to form dome-shaped hyphopodia that exerted force and showed host cell wall penetration rates comparable with the wild type. However, infection hyphae that formed within the plant cells exhibited severe swellings and were not able to proceed with plant colonization efficiently. Consequently, ΔCgChsV mutants did not develop macroscopically visible anthracnose disease symptoms and, thus, were nonpathogenic.

Additional keywords:force measurement, fungal cell wall.

© 2007 The American Phytopathological Society