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Pheromone-Related Inhibitors of Ustilago hordei Mating and Tilletia tritici Teliospore Germination

February 2002 , Volume 92 , Number  2
Pages  210 - 216

Paula J. Kosted , Shirley A. Gerhardt , and John E. Sherwood

Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, Ag Bioscience Building, Montana State University, Bozeman 59717

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Accepted for publication 22 October 2001.

Ustilago hordei, the causal agent of barley covered smut, produces mating pheromones that break down to smaller peptide compounds that act as potent inhibitors of mating and germination in several fungi. The pheromones are members of the farnesylated family of proteins. Synthetic peptide analogs of the pheromone derivatives, ranging in size from 4 mers to full length pheromones, were farnesylated, methyl esterified, or both and tested for mating or teliospore germination inhibition with U. hordei or Tilletia tritici, respectively. N-Acetyl-S-farnesylcysteine, which inhibits processing of Ras, and other sulfur-containing compounds such as homocysteine or methionine, were likewise modified and tested. The most potent inhibitors were methionine methyl ester and modified 4-mer peptides from both pheromones. Alanine scanning of the inhibitory 4 mers determined that the native amino acid sequence was specific for a high level of activity. The sulfur amino acids appear to be required for inhibition. Glasshouse studies using selected antagonists of mating and teliospore germination as seed treatments inhibited covered smut of barley and common bunt of wheat, although the level of control was inconsistent. The use of pheromone-related antagonists to mating or teliospore germination is a promising, novel strategy for control of smut and bunt diseases.

Additional keywords: alanine scanning, default mating, farnesyltransferase, methyltransferase, pheromone analogs.

© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society