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Transcriptome Analysis of a Ustilago maydis ust1 Deletion Mutant Uncovers Involvement of Laccase and Polyketide Synthase Genes in Spore Development

January 2015 , Volume 28 , Number  1
Pages  42 - 54

Emir Islamovic,1 María D. García-Pedrajas,2 Nadia Chacko,1 David L. Andrews,1 Sarah F. Covert,3 and Scott E. Gold1

1Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Athens, 30602, U.S.A.; 2Instituto de Hortofruticultura Subtropical y Mediterránea “La Mayora”, Universidad de Málaga-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IHSM-UMA-CSIC), Estación Experimental “La Mayora”, 29750 Algarrobo-Costa, Málaga, Spain; 3Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602, U.S.A.

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Accepted 1 September 2014.

Ustilago maydis, causal agent of corn smut disease, is a dimorphic fungus alternating between a saprobic budding haploid and an obligate pathogenic filamentous dikaryon. Maize responds to U. maydis colonization by producing tumorous structures, and only within these does the fungus sporulate, producing melanized sexual teliospores. Previously we identified Ust1, an APSES (Asm1p, Phd1p, Sok2p, Efg1p, and StuAp) transcription factor, whose deletion led to filamentous haploid growth and the production of highly pigmented teliospore-like structures in culture. In this study, we analyzed the transcriptome of a ust1 deletion mutant and functionally characterized two highly upregulated genes with potential roles in melanin biosynthesis: um05361, encoding a putative laccase (lac1), and um06414, encoding a polyketide synthase (pks1). The Δlac1 mutant strains showed dramatically reduced virulence on maize seedlings and fewer, less-pigmented teliospores in adult plants. The Δpks1 mutant was unaffected in seedling virulence but adult plant tumors generated hyaline, nonmelanized teliospores. Thus, whereas pks1 appeared to be restricted to the synthesis of melanin, lac1 showed a broader role in virulence. In conclusion, the ust1 deletion mutant provided an in vitro model for sporulation in U. maydis, and functional analysis supports the efficacy of this in vitro mutant analysis for identification of genes involved in in planta teliosporogenesis.

This article is in the public domain and not copyrightable. It may be freely reprinted with customary crediting of the source. The American Phytopathological Society, 2015.