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Distinct and Combined Roles of the MAP Kinases of Cochliobolus heterostrophus in Virulence and Stress Responses

June 2008 , Volume 21 , Number  6
Pages  769 - 780

Aeid Igbaria,1 Sophie Lev,1 Mark S. Rose,2 Bee Na Lee,3 Ruthi Hadar,1 Ofir Degani,1 and Benjamin A. Horwitz1

1Department of Biology, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel; 2Syngenta Biotechnology, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, U.S.A.; 3eGene Inc., 17841 Fitch Street, Irvine, CA 92620, U.S.A.


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Accepted 16 February 2008.

Pathogenicity mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), related to yeast FUS3/KSS1, are essential for virulence in fungi, including Cochliobolus heterostrophus, a necrotrophic pathogen causing Southern corn leaf blight. We compared the phenotypes of mutants in three MAPK genes: HOG1, MPS1, and CHK1. The chk1 and mps1 mutants show autolytic appearance, light pigmentation, and dramatic reduction in virulence and conidiation. Similarity of mps1 and chk1 mutants is reflected by coregulation by these two MAPKs of several genes. Unlike chk1, mps1 mutants are female-fertile and form normal-looking appressoria. HOG1 mediates resistance to hyperosmotic and, to a lesser extent, oxidative stress, and is required for stress upregulation of glycerol-3-phosphate phosphatase, transaldolase, and a monosaccharide transporter. Hog1, but not Mps1 or Chk1, was rapidly phosphorylated in response to increased osmolarity. The hog1 mutants have smaller appressoria and cause decreased disease symptoms on maize leaves. Surprisingly, loss of MPS1 in a wild-type or hog1 background improved resistance to some stresses. All three MAPKs contribute to the regulation of central developmental functions under normal and stress conditions, and full virulence cannot be achieved without appropriate input from all three pathways.


Additional keywords:osmoprotectant, signaling pathways, stress-activated MAPK

© 2008 The American Phytopathological Society