Mercy Thokala

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, San Luis, Missouri, United States

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Publications (5)16.76 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The Medicago truncatula gene encoding an evolutionarily conserved antifungal defensin MtDef4.2 was cloned and characterized. In silico expression analysis indicated that MtDef4.2 is expressed in many tissues during the normal growth and development of M. truncatula. MtDef4.2 exhibits potent broad-spectrum antifungal activity against various Fusarium spp. Transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana lines in which MtDef4.2 was targeted to three different subcellular compartments were generated. These lines were tested for resistance to the obligate biotrophic oomycete Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis Noco2 and the hemibiotrophic fungal pathogen Fusarium graminearum PH-1. MtDef4.2 directed to the extracellular space, but not to the vacuole or retained in the endoplasmic reticulum, conferred robust resistance to H. arabidopsidis. Siliques of transgenic Arabidopsis lines expressing either extracellularly or intracellularly targeted MtDef4.2 displayed low levels of resistance to F. graminearum, but accumulated substantially reduced levels of the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol. The data presented here suggest that extracellularly targeted MtDef4.2 is sufficient to provide strong resistance to the biotrophic oomycete, consistent with the extracellular lifestyle of this pathogen. However, the co-expression of extracellular and intracellular MtDef4.2 is probably required to achieve strong resistance to the hemibiotrophic pathogen F. graminearum which grows extracellularly and intracellularly.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2012 · Molecular Plant Pathology
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    ABSTRACT: The C-9-methylated glucosylceramides (GlcCers) are sphingolipids unique to fungi. They play important roles in fungal growth and pathogenesis, and they act as receptors for some antifungal plant defensins. We have identified two genes, FgMT1 and FgMT2, that each encode a putative sphingolipid C-9 methyltransferase (C-9-MT) in the fungal pathogen Fusarium graminearum and complement a Pichia pastoris C-9-MT-null mutant. The ΔFgmt1 mutant produced C-9-methylated GlcCer like the wild-type strain, PH-1, whereas the ΔFgmt2 mutant produced 65 to 75% nonmethylated and 25 to 35% methylated GlcCer. No ΔFgmt1ΔFgmt2 double-knockout mutant producing only nonmethylated GlcCer could be recovered, suggesting that perhaps C-9-MTs are essential in this pathogen. This is in contrast to the nonessential nature of this enzyme in the unicellular fungus P. pastoris. The ΔFgmt2 mutant exhibited severe growth defects and produced abnormal conidia, while the ΔFgmt1 mutant grew like the wild-type strain, PH-1, under the conditions tested. The ΔFgmt2 mutant also exhibited drastically reduced disease symptoms in wheat and much-delayed disease symptoms in Arabidopsis thaliana. Surprisingly, the ΔFgmt2 mutant was less virulent on different host plants tested than the previously characterized ΔFggcs1 mutant, which lacks GlcCer synthase activity and produces no GlcCer at all. Moreover, the ΔFgmt1 and ΔFgmt2 mutants, as well as the P. pastoris strain in which the C-9-MT gene was deleted, retained sensitivity to the antifungal plant defensins MsDef1 and RsAFP2, indicating that the C-9 methyl group is not a critical structural feature of the GlcCer receptor required for the antifungal action of plant defensins.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2008 · Eukaryotic Cell
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    ABSTRACT: Antifungal defensins, MsDef1 and MtDef4, from Medicago spp., inhibit the growth of a fungal pathogen, Fusarium graminearum, at micromolar concentrations. However, molecular mechanisms by which they inhibit the growth of this fungus are not known. We have characterized a functional role of the fungal sphingolipid glucosylceramide in regulating sensitivity of the fungus to MsDef1 and MtDef4. A null mutation of the FgGCS1 gene encoding glucosylceramide synthase results in a mutant lacking glucosylceramide. The DeltaFggcs1-null mutant becomes resistant to MsDef1, but not to MtDef4. It shows a significant change in the conidial morphology and displays dramatic polar growth defect, and its mycelia are resistant to cell wall degrading enzymes. Contrary to its essential role in the pathogenicity of a human fungal pathogen, Cryptococcus neoformans, GCS1 is not required for the pathogenicity of F. graminearum. The DeltaFggcs1 mutant successfully colonizes wheat heads and corn silk, but its ability to spread in these tissues is significantly reduced as compared with the wild-type PH-1 strain. In contrast, it retains full virulence on tomato fruits and Arabidopsis thaliana floral and foliar tissues. Based on our findings, we conclude that glucosylceramide is essential for MsDef1-mediated growth inhibition of F. graminearum, but its role in fungal pathogenesis is host-dependent.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2007 · Molecular Microbiology
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    ABSTRACT: The nucleocapsid (N) protein of hantavirus encapsidates viral genomic and antigenomic RNAs. Previously, deletion mapping identified a central, conserved region (amino acids 175 to 217) within the Hantaan virus (HTNV) N protein that interacts with a high affinity with these viral RNAs (vRNAs). To further define the boundaries of the RNA binding domain (RBD), several peptides were synthesized and examined for the ability to bind full-length S-segment vRNA. Peptide 195-217 retained 94% of the vRNA bound by the HTNV N protein, while peptides 175-186 and 205-217 bound only 1% of the vRNA. To further explore which residues were essential for binding vRNA, we performed a comprehensive mutational analysis of the amino acids in the RBD. Single and double Ala substitutions were constructed for 18 amino acids from amino acids 175 to 217 in the full-length N protein. In addition, Ala substitutions were made for the three R residues in peptide 185-217. An analysis of protein-RNA interactions by electrophoretic mobility shift assays implicated E192, Y206, and S217 as important for binding. Chemical modification experiments showed that lysine residues, but not arginine or cysteine residues, contribute to RNA binding, which agreed with bioinformatic predictions. Overall, these data implicate lysine residues dispersed from amino acids 175 to 429 of the protein and three amino acids located in the RBD as essential for RNA binding.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2005 · Journal of Virology
  • Mercy. Thokala
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    ABSTRACT: Thesis (Ph. D.)--New Mexico State University, 2006. Includes vita. Includes bibliographical references.
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Publication Stats

117 Citations
16.76 Total Impact Points


  • 2007-2012
    • Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
      San Luis, Missouri, United States
  • 2005
    • New Mexico State University
      • Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science
      Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States