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Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2006 Feb;19(2):139-49.

Two polyketide synthase-encoding genes are required for biosynthesis of the polyketide virulence factor, T-toxin, by Cochliobolus heterostrophus.

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Torrey Mesa Research Institute, Syngenta, 3115 Merryfield Row, San Diego, CA 92121, USA.


Cochliobolus heterostrophus race T, causal agent of southern corn leaf blight, requires T-toxin (a family of C35 to C49 polyketides) for high virulence on T-cytoplasm maize. Production of T-toxin is controlled by two unlinked loci, Tox1A and Tox1B, carried on 1.2 Mb of DNA not found in race O, a mildly virulent form of the fungus that does not produce T-toxin, or in any other Cochliobolus spp. or closely related fungus. PKS1, a polyketide synthase (PKS)-encoding gene at Tox1A, and DEC1, a decarboxylase-encoding gene at Tox1B, are necessary for T-toxin production. Although there is evidence that additional genes are required for T-toxin production, efforts to clone them have been frustrated because the genes are located in highly repeated, A+T-rich DNA. To overcome this difficulty, ligation specificity-based expression analysis display (LEAD), a comparative amplified fragment length polymorphism/gel fractionation/capillary sequencing procedure, was applied to cDNAs from a near-isogenic pair of race T (Tox1+) and race O (Tox1-) strains. This led to discovery of PKS2, a second PKS-encoding gene that maps at Tox1A and is required for both T-toxin biosynthesis and high virulence to maize. Thus, the carbon chain of each T-toxin family member likely is assembled by action of two PKSs, which produce two polyketides, one of which may act as the starter unit for biosynthesis of the mature T-toxin molecule.

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