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Tomatinase from Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici Is Required for Full Virulence on Tomato Plants

June 2008 , Volume 21 , Number  6
Pages  728 - 736

Yolanda Pareja-Jaime, M. Isabel G. Roncero, and M. Carmen Ruiz-Roldán

Departamento de Genética, Universidad de Córdoba, Edificio Gregor Mendel, Campus de Rabanales, 14071 Córdoba, Spain

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Accepted 3 March 2008.

Saponin detoxification enzymes from pathogenic fungi are involved in the infection process of their host plants. Fusarium oxysporum f. sp lycopersici, a tomato pathogen, produces the tomatinase enzyme Tom1, which degrades α-tomatine to less toxic derivates. To study the role of the tom1 gene in the virulence of F. oxysporum, we performed targeted disruption and overexpression of the gene. The infection process of tomato plants inoculated with transformants constitutively producing Tom1 resulted in an increase of symptom development. By contrast, tomato plants infected with the knockout mutants showed a delay in the disease process, indicating that Tom1, although not essential for pathogenicity, is required for the full virulence of F. oxysporum. Total tomatinase activity in the disrupted strains was reduced only 25%, leading to β2-tomatine as the main hydrolysis product of the saponin in vitro. In silico analysis of the F. oxysporum genome revealed the existence of four additional putative tomatinase genes with identities to tomatinases from family 3 of glycosyl hydrolases. These might be responsible for the remaining tomatinase activity in the Δtom1 mutants. Our results indicate that detoxification of α-tomatine in F. oxysporum is carried out by several tomatinase activities, suggesting the importance of these enzymes during the infection process.

Additional keywords:fungal pathogen, saponins.

© 2008 The American Phytopathological Society