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Plant Physiol. 2011 Jul;156(3):1565-76. doi: 10.1104/pp.111.178624. Epub 2011 May 18.

Functional characterization of a eukaryotic melibiose transporter.

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Molecular Plant Physiology, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, D-91058 Erlangen, Germany.


Pathogenic fungi drastically affect plant health and cause significant losses in crop yield and quality. In spite of their impact, little is known about the carbon sources used by these fungi in planta and about the fungal transporters importing sugars from the plant-fungus interface. Here, we report on the identification and characterization of MELIBIOSE TRANSPORTER1 (MBT1) from the hemibiotrophic fungus Colletotrichum graminicola (teleomorph Glomerella graminicola), the causal agent of leaf anthracnose and stalk rot disease in maize (Zea mays). Functional characterization of the MBT1 protein in baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) expressing the MBT1 cDNA revealed that α-D-galactopyranosyl compounds such as melibiose, galactinol, and raffinose are substrates of MBT1, with melibiose most likely being the preferred substrate. α-D-glucopyranosyl disaccharides like trehalose, isomaltose, or maltose are also accepted by MBT1, although with lower affinities. The MBT1 gene shows low and comparable expression levels in axenically grown C. graminicola and upon infection of maize leaves both during the initial biotrophic development of the fungus and during the subsequent necrotrophic phase. Despite these low levels of MBT1 expression, the MBT1 protein allows efficient growth of C. graminicola on melibiose as sole carbon source in axenic cultures. Although Δmbt1 mutants are unable to grow on melibiose, they do not show virulence defects on maize.

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