Multiple plant surface signals are sensed by different mechanisms in the rice blast fungus for appressorium formation.
Surface recognition and penetration are among the most critical plant infection processes in foliar pathogens. In Magnaporthe oryzae, the Pmk1 MAP kinase regulates appressorium formation and penetration. Its orthologs also are known to be required for various plant infection processes in other phytopathogenic fungi. Although a number of upstream components of this important pathway have been characterized, the upstream sensors for surface signals have not been well characterized. Pmk1 is orthologous to Kss1 in yeast that functions downstream from Msb2 and Sho1 for filamentous growth. Because of the conserved nature of the Pmk1 and Kss1 pathways and reduced expression of MoMSB2 in the pmk1 mutant, in this study we functionally characterized the MoMSB2 and MoSHO1 genes. Whereas the Momsb2 mutant was significantly reduced in appressorium formation and virulence, the Mosho1 mutant was only slightly reduced. The Mosho1 Momsb2 double mutant rarely formed appressoria on artificial hydrophobic surfaces, had a reduced Pmk1 phosphorylation level, and was nonresponsive to cutin monomers. However, it still formed appressoria and caused rare, restricted lesions on rice leaves. On artificial hydrophilic surfaces, leaf surface waxes and primary alcohols-but not paraffin waxes and alkanes- stimulated appressorium formation in the Mosho1 Momsb2 mutant, but more efficiently in the Momsb2 mutant. Furthermore, expression of a dominant active MST7 allele partially suppressed the defects of the Momsb2 mutant. These results indicate that, besides surface hydrophobicity and cutin monomers, primary alcohols, a major component of epicuticular leaf waxes in grasses, are recognized by M. oryzae as signals for appressorium formation. Our data also suggest that MoMsb2 and MoSho1 may have overlapping functions in recognizing various surface signals for Pmk1 activation and appressorium formation. While MoMsb2 is critical for sensing surface hydrophobicity and cutin monomers, MoSho1 may play a more important role in recognizing rice leaf waxes.
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