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Ultrastructural Characterization of Infection and Colonization of Maize Leaves by Colletotrichum graminicola, and by a C. graminicola Pathogenicity Mutant

July 2002 , Volume 92 , Number  7
Pages  803 - 812

C. W. Mims and L. J. Vaillancourt

First author: Department of Plant Pathology, Julian H. Miller Plant Sciences Building, University of Georgia, Athens 30602; and second author: Department of Plant Pathology, S-305 Agricultural Science Center-North, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40546

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Accepted for publication 19 March 2002.

Observations were made of the ultrastructure of infection and colonization of leaves of a susceptible maize inbred by Colletotrichum graminicola and by a C. graminicola pathogenicity mutant. The mutant causes no symptoms on either maize leaves or stalks. Prior evidence suggested that it is deficient in production of signal peptidase, responsible for cleavage of signal peptides from proteins destined for transport through the endoplasmic reticulum. There was no significant difference in the process of infection or colonization by the mutant and wild-type strains up to 48 h after inoculation. Both the mutant and the wild type produced globose, melanized appressoria within 24 h after inoculation on the host surface. By 36 h, both strains had penetrated the host epidermal cells directly. The host cells frequently formed papillae in response to appressoria, but these were not usually successful in preventing fungal ingress in either case. Penetration was followed by formation of irregularly shaped, swollen infection hyphae. Infection hyphae of both strains grew biotrophically for a relatively short time (less than 12 h). One or more hyphal branches was produced from each infection hypha, and these invaded adjacent mesophyll cells. Both strains of the fungus grew cell-to-cell, setting up new biotrophic interactions in each cell, between 36 and 48 h after inoculation. Papillae were frequently formed by the mesophyll cells, but these were not successful in preventing fungal ingress. The first noticeable difference between the mutant and the wild type was related to their interaction with mesophyll cells. Cells invaded by the wild type died relatively quickly, whereas those infected by the mutant appeared to survive longer. The most dramatic difference between the mutant and wild type occurred when the mutant completely failed to make a transition to necrotrophic growth, while the wild type made that switch at 48 to 72 h after inoculation. The mutant may be unable to secrete sufficient quantities of one or more proteins that are necessary to support the switch between biotrophy and necrotrophy.

Additional keywords: corn anthracnose, corn stalk rot, Glomerella graminicola.

© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society