Year of Publication

2006

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Agriculture

Department

Plant Pathology

First Advisor

Lisa Vaillancourt

Abstract

Colleotrichum graminicola is the causal agent of anthracnose stalk rot, and is one of the most common and aggressive pathogens of maize. The goal of my Ph.D. project was to contribute to a better understanding of the biology of the interaction between C. graminicola and its host. C. graminicola produces two type of asexual spores: one is produced on the surface of infected tissues and is thought to be involved in the spread of the disease in the field. The second type of spore, oval in shape, is produced inside the infected plant tissues, and was believed to be involved in the movement of the pathogen inside the plant tissues via the vascular system. I tested this hypothesis with both cytological and molecular approaches. I used strains of C. graminicola expressing green fluorescent proteins (GFP) to inoculate wounded plants, and followed the development of the pathogen over time. This study revealed that C. graminicola is not a vascular pathogen. C. graminicola primarily moved through the rind and vascular fibers. Oval spores were produced in colonized parenchyma cells and remained dormant, and did not appear to be involved in the movement of the pathogen, at least during the early stages of the disease development. I also studied pathogen ingress in the absence of a wound. I inoculated unwounded plants with the GFP expressing strains. C. graminicola efficiently colonized the epidermis and, given enough time, penetrated and colonized the deeper parenchyma tissues, after first moving through the fibers. To further test the role of sporulation in colonization of maize tissues, I used targeted mutagenesis to disrupt a major gene known to regulate sporulation and vegetative growth in several other fungi. The gene Cgg1, orthologue of the A. nidulans fadA, was disrupted using the split marker method. The Cgg1 mutants were less pathogenic than the wildtype to wounded plants. This was associated with an apparent increase in production of spores and primary infection hyphae. This suggests that Cgg1 signaling pathway plays a role in maximizing colonization of host tissues, and that this involves negative regulation of sporulation and primary hyphae production in planta.

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