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Plant Cell. 2012 Apr;24(4):1327-51. doi: 10.1105/tpc.112.096156. Epub 2012 Apr 18.

Mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in plant-interacting fungi: distinct messages from conserved messengers.

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  • 1Département de Biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec J1K 2R1, Canada.


Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are evolutionarily conserved proteins that function as key signal transduction components in fungi, plants, and mammals. During interaction between phytopathogenic fungi and plants, fungal MAPKs help to promote mechanical and/or enzymatic penetration of host tissues, while plant MAPKs are required for activation of plant immunity. However, new insights suggest that MAPK cascades in both organisms do not operate independently but that they mutually contribute to a highly interconnected molecular dialogue between the plant and the fungus. As a result, some pathogenesis-related processes controlled by fungal MAPKs lead to the activation of plant signaling, including the recruitment of plant MAPK cascades. Conversely, plant MAPKs promote defense mechanisms that threaten the survival of fungal cells, leading to a stress response mediated in part by fungal MAPK cascades. In this review, we make use of the genomic data available following completion of whole-genome sequencing projects to analyze the structure of MAPK protein families in 24 fungal taxa, including both plant pathogens and mycorrhizal symbionts. Based on conserved patterns of sequence diversification, we also propose the adoption of a unified fungal MAPK nomenclature derived from that established for the model species Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Finally, we summarize current knowledge of the functions of MAPK cascades in phytopathogenic fungi and highlight the central role played by MAPK signaling during the molecular dialogue between plants and invading fungal pathogens.

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