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Plant Cell. 1996 Nov;8(11):2139-50.

A polyketide synthase is required for fungal virulence and production of the polyketide T-toxin.

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  • 1Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Race T of the fungal pathogen Cochliobolus heterostrophus is highly virulent toward Texas male sterile (T) maize and differs from its relative, race O, at a locus (Tox1) that is responsible for the production of T-toxin, a family of linear long-chain (C35 to E41) polyketides. In a previous study, the restriction enzyme-mediated integration procedure was used to mutagenize and tag Tox1. Here, we report that the DNA recovered from the insertion site of one mutant encodes a 7.6-kb open reading frame (2530 amino acids) that identifies a multifunctional polyketide synthase (PKS)-encoding gene (PKS1) with six catalytic domains arranged in the following order, starting at the N terminus: beta-ketoacyl synthase, acyltransferase, dehydratase, enoyl reductase, beta-ketoacyl reductase, and acyl carrier protein. PKS1 is interrupted by four apparent introns (74, 57, 49, and 41 bp) and exists in the genome as a single copy surrounded by highly repetitive, A + T-rich DNA. When PKS1 in race T was inactivated by targeted gene disruption, T-toxin production and high virulence were eliminated, indicating that this PKS is required for fungal virulence. Race O strains, which do not produce T-toxin, lack a detectable homolog of PKS1, suggesting that race T may have acquired PKS1 by horizontal transfer of DNA rather than by vertical inheritance from an ancestral strain.

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