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Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2002 Apr;15(4):303-12.

The biotrophic, non-appressorium-forming grass pathogen Claviceps purpurea needs a Fus3/Pmk1 homologous mitogen-activated protein kinase for colonization of rye ovarian tissue.

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Institut für Botanik, Westfaelische Wilhelms-Universitaet, Muenster, Germany.


Claviceps purpurea is a common pathogen of a wide range of grasses and cereals that is able to establish a stable, balanced interaction with its host plant and is considered a biotroph. It does not form special penetration structures such as appressoria. To study the signaling processes involved in this special host-pathogen interaction, we have cloned a gene, cpmk1, encoding a mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase that shows significant homology to Fus3 of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and to pmk1 of Magnaporthe grisea. Using a gene-replacement approach, we isolated a Acpmk1 mutant and characterized it in detail. Loss of CPMK1 has no obvious effect on vegetative properties (such as growth rate, morphology, and conidia formation); however, infection tests on rye show that the mutant is unable to colonize rye tissue, i.e., it appears to be completely nonpathogenic. Complementation of the mutant with a wild-type copy of cpmk1 fully restores its pathogenicity, confirming that this MAP kinase is essential for infection of rye by C. purpurea. Transformation of the delta pmk1 mutant of M. grisea with a complete copy of cpmk1 (including the C. purpurea promoter) fully restored its ability to form appressoria and its pathogenicity on barley. Although both fungi drastically differ in their pathogenic strategies, this result indicates that the signal pathway involving CPMK1 is highly conserved.

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