Key Laboratory of Plant Resources, Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
Pathogenic fungi usually secrete a series of virulence factors to the extracellular environment to facilitate infection. Rab GTPases play a central role in the secretory pathway. To explore the function of Rab/GTPase in filamentous fungi, we knocked out a Rab/GTPase family gene, Bcsas1, in Botrytis cinerea, an aggressive fungal pathogen that infects more than 200 plant species. A detailed analysis was conducted on the virulence and the secretory capability of the mutants. The results indicated that knockout of Bcsas1 inhibited hyphal development and reduced sporulation of B. cinerea on potato dextrose agar plates resulting in reduced virulence on various fruit hosts. Knocking out the Bcsas1 gene led to an accumulation of transport vesicles at the hyphal tip, significantly reduced extracellular protein content, and lowered the activity of polygalacturonase and xylanase in the extracellular medium. However, mutation of Bcsas1 did not affect the expression of genes encoding polygalacturonase and xylanase, suggesting the secretion of these two family enzymes was suppressed in the mutant. Moreover, a comparative analysis of the secretome provided further evidence that the disruption of Bcsas1 in mutant strains significantly depressed the secretion of polysaccharide hydrolases and proteases. The results indicate that Bcsas1, the Rab8/SEC4-like gene, plays a crucial role in development, protein secretion, and virulence of B. cinerea.