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Mol Plant Pathol. 2014 Sep;15(7):711-29. doi: 10.1111/mpp.12134. Epub 2014 Jun 5.

Differential gene expression by Moniliophthora roreri while overcoming cacao tolerance in the field.

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Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory, USDA/ARS, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center-West, Beltsville, MD, 20705, USA.


Frosty pod rot (FPR) of Theobroma cacao (cacao) is caused by the hemibiotrophic fungus Moniliophthora roreri. Cacao clones tolerant to FPR are being planted throughout Central America. To determine whether M. roreri shows a differential molecular response during successful infections of tolerant clones, we collected field-infected pods at all stages of symptomatology for two highly susceptible clones (Pound-7 and CATIE-1000) and three tolerant clones (UF-273, CATIE-R7 and CATIE-R4). Metabolite analysis was carried out on clones Pound-7, CATIE-1000, CATIE-R7 and CATIE-R4. As FPR progressed, the concentrations of sugars in pods dropped, whereas the levels of trehalose and mannitol increased. Associations between symptoms and fungal loads and some organic and amino acid concentrations varied depending on the clone. RNA-Seq analysis identified 873 M. roreri genes that were differentially expressed between clones, with the primary difference being whether the clone was susceptible or tolerant. Genes encoding transcription factors, heat shock proteins, transporters, enzymes modifying membranes or cell walls and metabolic enzymes, such as malate synthase and alternative oxidase, were differentially expressed. The differential expression between clones of 43 M. roreri genes was validated by real-time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. The expression profiles of some genes were similar in susceptible and tolerant clones (other than CATIE-R4) and varied with the biotrophic/necrotropic shift. Moniliophthora roreri genes associated with stress metabolism and responses to heat shock and anoxia were induced early in tolerant clones, their expression profiles resembling that of the necrotrophic phase. Moniliophthora roreri stress response genes, induced during the infection of tolerant clones, may benefit the fungus in overcoming cacao defense mechanisms.


Moniliophthora roreri; RNA-Seq; Theobroma cacao; disease tolerance; frosty pod rot; hemibiotroph; metabolite

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