ABSTRACT: The wheat pathogen Stagonospora nodorum produces multiple necrotrophic effectors (also called host-selective toxins) that promote disease by interacting with corresponding host sensitivity gene products. SnTox1 was the first necrotrophic effector identified in S. nodorum, and was shown to induce necrosis on wheat lines carrying Snn1. Here, we report the molecular cloning and validation of SnTox1 as well as the preliminary characterization of the mechanism underlying the SnTox1-Snn1 interaction which leads to susceptibility. SnTox1 was identified using bioinformatics tools and verified by heterologous expression in Pichia pastoris. SnTox1 encodes a 117 amino acid protein with the first 17 amino acids predicted as a signal peptide, and strikingly, the mature protein contains 16 cysteine residues, a common feature for some avirulence effectors. The transformation of SnTox1 into an avirulent S. nodorum isolate was sufficient to make the strain pathogenic. Additionally, the deletion of SnTox1 in virulent isolates rendered the SnTox1 mutated strains avirulent on the Snn1 differential wheat line. SnTox1 was present in 85% of a global collection of S. nodorum isolates. We identified a total of 11 protein isoforms and found evidence for strong diversifying selection operating on SnTox1. The SnTox1-Snn1 interaction results in an oxidative burst, DNA laddering, and pathogenesis related (PR) gene expression, all hallmarks of a defense response. In the absence of light, the development of SnTox1-induced necrosis and disease symptoms were completely blocked. By comparing the infection processes of a GFP-tagged avirulent isolate and the same isolate transformed with SnTox1, we conclude that SnTox1 may play a critical role during fungal penetration. This research further demonstrates that necrotrophic fungal pathogens utilize small effector proteins to exploit plant resistance pathways for their colonization, which provides important insights into the molecular basis of the wheat-S. nodorum interaction, an emerging model for necrotrophic pathosystems.
PLoS Pathogens 01/2012; 8(1):e1002467. · 9.13 Impact Factor