Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Plant Pathology

First Advisor

Dr. Mark L. Farman


The filamentous ascomycete fungus Magnaporthe oryzae is a pathogen of over 50 genera of grasses. Two important diseases it can cause are gray leaf spot in Lolium perenne (perennial ryegrass) and blast in Oryza sativa (rice). The telomeres of M. oryzae isolates causing gray leaf spot are highly variable, and can spontaneously change during fungal culture. In this dissertation, it is shown that a rice-infecting isolate is much more stable at the telomeres than an isolate from gray leaf spot. To determine the molecular basis of telomere instability several gray leaf spot isolates telomeres were cloned, which revealed two non-LTR retrotransposons inserted into the telomere repeats. The elements have been termed Magnaporthe oryzae Telomeric Retrotransposons (MoTeRs). These elements do not have poly-A tails common to many other non-LTR retrotransposons, but instead have telomere like sequences at their 5’ end that allow them to insert into telomeres. Intact copies of MoTeRs were restricted to the telomeres of isolates causing gray leaf spot. Surveys for the presence of these elements in M. oryzae showed they were present in several host-specialized forms including gray leaf spot isolates, but were largely absent in the rice blast isolates. The absence of MoTeRs in rice blast isolates, which are relatively stable by comparison, suggested that the telomere instability in gray leaf spot isolates could be due to MoTeRs. Analyzing spontaneous alterations in telomere restriction fragment profiles of asexual progeny revealed that MoTeRs were involved. Expansion and contraction of MoTeR arrays were observed and account for some telomere restriction profile changes. New telomere formation in asexual progeny followed by MoTeR addition was also observed. Based on this evidence, MoTeRs are largely responsible for the high variability of telomere restriction profiles observed in GLS isolates.