Comparison of the infection biology and transcriptome of wild-type and single gene deletion strains of Fusarium graminearum
Brown, Neil Andrew
Fusarium Ear Blight is a devastating fungal disease of cereals and due to the contamination of the harvested grain with a range of trichothecene mycotoxins presents a risk to human and animal health. The re-emergence of Fusarium graminearum on wheat and maize, the evolution of more aggressive fungal strains and the lack of an effective control strategy, has increased the need for a greater understanding of the disease aetiology. This project aimed to enhance the understanding of the interaction between F. graminearum and wheat (Triticum aestivum), through the utilisation of microscopy and molecular pathogenomics. A detailed investigation of the infection process revealed a prolonged latent period of intercellular infection that preceded host cell death, intracellular colonisation and the onset of disease symptoms. Phenotypic differences in colonisation and mycotoxin gene expression implied that hyphae within the two phases of infection were transcriptionally distinct, while a bioinformatic analysis described the fungal secretome. The two fungal gene-deficient strains assessed, top1 and tri5, were unable to establish symptomless infection or spread throughout the wheat ear, in the presence or absence of mycotoxin production, suggesting the existence of additional virulence factors. Subsequently, a genome wide transcriptome investigation of the two phases of infection, using both Affymetrix and RNA-sequencing technologies, revealed the unique expression profile, and secretome, of the advancing hyphal front of the symptomless infections. This greater understanding of the biphasic interaction will provide a benchmark for comparison with the single gene deficient strains. Finally, a laser capture microdissection procedure was developed to enable future cell-type specific transcriptome experiments. Collectively, I have discovered and developed a model of how F. graminearum establishes symptomless and symptomatic infection. In doing so, this study has enhanced the understanding of this non-biotrophic pathosystem, providing many new lines of investigation, which could greatly improve crop protection strategies.