Biocenter Klein-Flottbek, Molecular Phytopathology and Genetics, University of Hamburg, Ohnhorststrasse 18, 22609 Hamburg, Germany
The fungal pathogen Fusarium graminearum is the most common agent of Fusarium head blight (FHB) in small grain cereals and cob rot of maize. The threat posed by this fungus is due to a decrease in yield and, additionally, mycotoxin contamination of the harvested cereals. Among the mycotoxins, trichothecenes influence virulence of F. graminearum in a highly complex manner that is strongly host- as well as chemotype-specific. The factors inducing mycotoxin production during plant infection are still unknown. To evaluate the induction of the trichothecene pathway, the green fluorescence protein (GFP) gene was fused to the promoter of the TRI5 gene coding for the trichodiene synthase and integrated into the genome by homologous integration. The resulting mutant contains a fully functional TRI5 gene ensuring virulence on wheat and exhibits GFP driven by the endogenous TRI5 promoter. We are now able to monitor the induction of trichothecenes under real-time conditions. To localize the fungus in the plant tissue, the dsRed gene was integrated under constitutive control of the glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (gpdA) promoter. We are now able to show that, first, induction of GFP as well as trichothecene production in the reporter strain reflects TRI5 induction and trichothecene production in the wild type; second, expression of TRI5 is inducible during growth in culture; and, third, trichothecene production is not uniformly induced during the onset of infection but is tissue specific during fungal infection of wheat.