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Epigenetics. 2019 Jan 11. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2018.1564426. [Epub ahead of print]

Genome-wide DNA methylation and transcriptomic profiles in the lifestyle strategies and asexual development of the forest fungal pathogen Heterobasidion parviporum.

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a Department of Forest Sciences , University of Helsinki , Latokartanonkaari 7 P.O. Box 27, , Helsinki , 00014 , Finland.


Heterobasidion parviporum is the most devastating fungal pathogen of conifer forests in Northern Europe. The fungus has dual life strategies, necrotrophy on living trees and saprotrophy on dead woods. DNA cytosine methylation is an important epigenetic modification in eukaryotic organisms. Our presumption is that the lifestyle transition and asexual development in H. parviporum could be driven by epigenetic effects. Involvements of DNA methylation in the regulation of aforementioned processes have never been studied thus far. RNA-seq identified lists of highly induced genes enriched in carbohydrate-active enzymes during necrotrophic interaction with host trees and saprotrophic sawdust growth. It also highlighted signaling- and transcription factor-related genes potentially associated with the transition of saprotrophic to necrotrophic lifestyle and groups of primary cellular activities throughout asexual development. Whole-genome bisulfite sequencing revealed that DNA methylation displayed pronounced preference in CpG dinucleotide context across the genome and mostly targeted TE-rich regions. TE methylation level demonstrated a strong negative correlation with TE expression, reinforcing the protective function of DNA methylation in fungal genome stability. Small groups of genes putatively subject to methylation transcriptional regulation in response to saprotrophic and necrotrophic growth in comparison with free-living mycelia were also explored. Our study reported on the first methylome map of a forest pathogen. Analysis of transcriptome and methylome variations associated with asexual development and different lifestyle strategies provided further understanding of basic biological processes in H. parviporum. More importantly, our work raised additional potential roles of DNA methylation in fungi apart from controlling the proliferation of TEs.


DNA cytosine methylation; Heterobasidion parviporum; Norway spruce; asexual development; conidiospores; free-living mycelia; lifestyle transition; necrotrophy; saprotrophy

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