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J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2017 May 28;27(5):1010-1022. doi: 10.4014/jmb.1702.02001.

UmTco1, a Hybrid Histidine Kinase Gene, Is Essential for the Sexual Development and Virulence of Ustilago maydis.

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Department of Microbiology, Dankook University, Cheonan 31116, Republic of Korea.
Department of Nanobiomedical Science, Dankook University, Cheonan 31116, Republic of Korea.


Hybrid histidine kinase is part of a two-component system that is required for various stress responses and pathogenesis of pathogenic fungi. The Tco1 gene in human pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans encodes a hybrid histidine kinase and is important for pathogenesis. In this study, we identified a Tco1 homolog, UmTco1, in the maize pathogen Ustilago maydis by bioinformatics analysis. To explore the role of UmTco1 in the survival of U. maydis under environmental stresses and its pathogenesis, Δumtco1 mutants were constructed by allelic exchange. The growth of Δumtco1 mutants was significantly impaired when they were cultured under hyperosmotic stress. The Δumtco1 mutants exhibited increased resistance to antifungal agent fludioxonil. In particular, the Δumtco1 mutants were unable to produce cytokinesis or conjugation tubes, and to develop fuzzy filaments, resulting in impaired mating between compatible strains. The expression levels of Prf1, Pra1, and Mfa1, which are involved in the pheromone pathway, were significantly decreased in the Δumtco1 mutants. In inoculation tests to the host plant, the Δumtco1 mutants showed significantly reduced ability in the production of anthocyanin pigments and tumor development on maize leaves. Overall, the combined results indicated that UmTco1 plays important roles in the survival under hyperosmotic stress, and contributes to cytokinesis, sexual development, and virulence of U. maydis by regulating the expression of the genes involved in the pheromone pathway.


Hybrid histidine kinase; Ustilago maydis; hyperosmotic stress; mating; virulence

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