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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2005 Oct 15;251(2):177-84.

Sclerotinia sclerotiorum: when "to be or not to be" a pathogen?

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Molecular Genetics Section, 107 Science Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada S7N 0X2.


Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is unusual among necrotrophic pathogens in its requirement for senescent tissues to establish an infection and to complete the life cycle. A model for the infection process has emerged whereby the pathogenic phase is bounded by saprophytic phases; the distinction being that the dead tissues in the latter are generated by the actions of the pathogen. Initial colonization of dead tissue provides nutrients for pathogen establishment and resources to infect healthy plant tissue. The early pathogenicity stage involves production of oxalic acid and the expression of cell wall degrading enzymes, such as specific isoforms of polygalacturonase (SSPG1) and protease (ASPS), at the expanding edge of the lesion. Such activities release small molecules (oligo-galacturonides and peptides) that serve to induce the expression of a second wave of degradative enzymes that collectively bring about the total dissolution of the plant tissue. Oxalic acid and other metabolites and enzymes suppress host defences during the pathogenic phase, while other components initiate host cell death responses leading to the formation of necrotic tissue. The pathogenic phase is followed by a second saprophytic phase, the transition to which is effected by declining cAMP levels as glucose becomes available and further hydrolytic enzyme synthesis is repressed. Low cAMP levels and an acidic environment generated by the secretion of oxalic acid promote sclerotial development and completion of the life cycle. This review brings together histological, biochemical and molecular information gathered over the past several decades to develop this tri-phasic model for infection. In several instances, studies with Botrytis species are drawn upon for supplemental and supportive evidence for this model. In this process, we attempt to outline how the interplay between glucose levels, cAMP and ambient pH serves to coordinate the transition between these phases and dictate the biochemical and developmental events that define them.

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