Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Plant Pathology

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa J. Vaillancourt


Colletotrichum graminicola is a hemibiotrophic pathogen of maize that causes anthracnose leaf and stalk rot diseases. The pathogen penetrates the host and initially establishes an intracellular biotrophic infection, in which the hyphae are separated from the living host cell by a membrane that is elaborated by the host, apparently in response to pathogen signals. A nonpathogenic mutant (MT) of C. graminicola was generated that germinates and penetrates the host normally, but is incapable of establishing a normal biotrophic infection. The mutated gene is Cpr1, conserved in eukaryotes and predicted to encode a component of the signal peptidase complex. How can we explain why the MT is normal in culture and during early stages of pathogenicity, but is deficient specifically in the ability to establish biotrophy? To address this, first I characterized the insertion in the 3’ UTR of the MT strain in detail, something that had not been done before. The wild-type (WT) transcript did not differ from predictions, but the MT produced several aberrant transcript species, including truncated and non-spliced transcripts, and the normal one. Aberrant splicing of MT cpr1 was observed both in RNAseq transcriptome data and reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), under different growth conditions and in planta. I also conducted a bioinformatic analysis of other conserved components of the secretory pathway in the MT and WT in planta. One explanation for nonpathogenicity of the MT is that it cannot cope with an increase in secretory activity during infection, and fails to produce necessary pathogenicity factors. With the transcriptome data, I was able to identify effector proteins that were expressed in the WT but not in the MT. Another possible explanation for the MT phenotype is that the MT can’t adapt to stress imposed by the plant. I developed a growth assay to characterize the effect of chemical stressors in vitro. The MT was more sensitive to most stressors, when compared to the WT. The transcriptome data indicates that the genes involved in different stress pathways are expressed in planta in both WT and MT, although very few genes are differentially expressed across the different growth stages.