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Fungal Genet Biol. 2007 Jan;44(1):32-43. Epub 2006 Sep 6.

Bcl-2 proteins link programmed cell death with growth and morphogenetic adaptations in the fungal plant pathogen Colletotrichum gloeosporioides.

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Department of Plant Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.


Proteins belonging to the Bcl-2 family regulate apoptosis in mammals by controlling mitochondria efflux of cytochrome c and other apoptosis-related proteins. Homologues of human Bcl-2 proteins are found in different metazoan organisms where they play a similar role, while they seem to be absent in plants and fungi. Nonetheless, Bcl-2 protein members can induce or prevent yeast cell death, suggesting that enough functional conservation exists between apoptotic machineries of mammals and fungi. Here we show that induction or prevention of apoptosis by Bcl-2 proteins in the fungal plant pathogen Colletotrichum gloeosporioides is tightly linked with growth and morphogenetic adaptation that occur throughout the entire fungal life cycle. Isolates expressing the pro-apoptotic Bax protein underwent cell death with apoptotic characteristics, and showed alterations in conidial germination that are associated with pathogenic and non-pathogenic life styles. Isolates expressing the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 protein had prolonged longevity, were protected from Bax-induced cell death, and exhibited enhanced stress resistance. These isolates also had enhanced mycelium and conidia production, and were hyper virulent to host plants. Our findings show that apoptotic-associated machinery regulates morphogenetic switches, which are critical for proper responses and adaptation fungi to different environments.

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