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Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 1995 Nov-Dec;8(6):971-8.

Fungal pathogens of oat roots and tomato leaves employ closely related enzymes to detoxify different host plant saponins.

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Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK.


Antifungal saponins are produced by many plants and have been implicated as preformed determinants of resistance to fungal attack. The importance of saponin detoxification in fungal pathogenesis has recently been demonstrated for the fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis var. avenae, which produces the enzyme avenacinase. Avenacinase detoxifies the triterpenoid oat root saponin avenacin A-1, and is essential for pathogenicity of G. graminis var.avenae to oats. Here we demonstrate an unexpected relatedness between avenacinase and the tomatinase enzyme produced by Septoria lycopersici (a tomato leaf-infecting fungus), which acts on the steroidal glycoalkaloid alpha-tomatine. The two enzymes share common physicochemical properties and are immunologically cross-reactive; however, there are critical differences in their substrate specificities which reflect the host preferences of the fungi from which the enzymes were purified. The DNA encoding tomatinase was isolated from a S. lycopersici cDNA library using avenacinase DNA as a probe. Comparison of the predicted amino acid sequences of avenacinase and tomatinase revealed that the enzymes are clearly similar.

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