Department of Plant Sciences, Division of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, U.S.A.
The fungal plant pathogen Nectria haematococca MPVI produces a cytochrome P450 that is responsible for detoxifying the phytoalexin pisatin, produced as a defense mechanism by its host, garden pea. In this study, we demonstrate that this fungus also produces a specific ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter, NhABC1, that enhances its tolerance to pisatin. In addition, although both mechanisms individually contribute to the tolerance of pisatin and act as host-specific virulence factors, mutations in both genes render the fungus even more sensitive to pisatin and essentially nonpathogenic on pea. NhABC1 is rapidly induced after treatment with pisatin in vitro and during infection of pea plants. Furthermore, NhABC1 was able to confer tolerance to the phytoalexin rishitin, produced by potato. NhABC1 appears to be orthologous to GpABC1 of the potato pathogen Gibberella pulicaris and, along with MoABC1 from Magnaporthe oryzae, resides in a phylogenetically related clade enriched with ABC transorters involved in virulence. We propose that NhABC1 and the cytochrome P450 may function in a sequential manner in which the energy expense from pisatin efflux by NhABC1 releases the repression of the cytochrome P450, ultimately allowing pisatin tolerance by two mechanisms. These results demonstrate that a successful pathogen has evolved multiple mechanisms to overcome these plant antimicrobial compounds.