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Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2009 Aug;22(8):942-52. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-22-8-0942.

The YAP1 homolog-mediated oxidative stress tolerance is crucial for pathogenicity of the necrotrophic fungus Alternaria alternata in citrus.

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  • 1Citrus Research and Education Center, and Department of Plant Pathology, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), University of Florida, 700 Experiment Station Rd., Lake Alfred 33850, U.S.A.


Citrus brown spot disease is caused by the necrotrophic fungus Alternaria alternata. Its pathogenic capability has been thought to depend exclusively on the production of host-selective ACT toxin. However, circumvention of plant defenses is also likely to be important for the disease process. To investigate the fungal response to host-generated reactive oxygen species (ROS), we cloned and characterized the AaAP1 gene of A. alternata, which encodes a polypeptide resembling yeast YAP1-like transcriptional activators implicated in cellular responses to stress. Expression of the AaAP1 gene in a wild-type strain was primarily induced by H(2)O(2) or ROS-generating oxidants. Using a loss-of-function mutation in the AaAP1 gene, we demonstrated an essential requirement for oxidative tolerance during the host invasion step. Mutants lacking AaAP1 showed increased sensitivity to H(2)O(2) and loss of fungal pathogenicity. The DeltaAaAP1 null mutant did not cause any visible necrotic lesions on wounded or unwounded leaves of citrus cv. Minneola. Compared with the wild type, the null mutant displayed lower catalase, peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase activities. All mutant phenotypes were restored to the wild type in fungal strains expressing a functional copy of AaAP1. Upon exposure to H(2)O(2), the AaAP1::sGFP (synthetic green fluorescent protein) fusion protein became localized in the nucleus. Inoculation of the mutant with NADPH oxidase inhibitors partially restored fungal pathogenicity. Our results highlight the global regulatory role of a YAP1 homolog in response to oxidative stress in A. alternata and provide insights into the critical role of ROS detoxification in the pathogenicity of A. alternata.

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