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PLoS Pathog. 2019 Apr 1;15(4):e1007666. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007666. eCollection 2019 Apr.

Non-canonical fungal G-protein coupled receptors promote Fusarium head blight on wheat.

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Biointeractions and Crop Protection, Rothamsted Research, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.
Computational and Analytical Sciences, Rothamsted Research, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.
Department of Biology & Biochemistry, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath, United Kingdom.


Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) is the number one floral disease of cereals and poses a serious health hazard by contaminating grain with the harmful mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON). Fungi adapt to fluctuations in their environment, coordinating development and metabolism accordingly. G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) communicate changes in the environment to intracellular G-proteins that direct the appropriate biological response, suggesting that fungal GPCR signalling may be key to virulence. Here we describe the expansion of non-classical GPCRs in the FHB causing pathogen, Fusarium graminearum, and show that class X receptors are highly expressed during wheat infection. We identify class X receptors that are required for FHB disease on wheat, and show that the absence of a GPCR can cause an enhanced host response that restricts the progression of infection. Specific receptor sub-domains are required for virulence. These non-classical receptors physically interact with intracellular G-proteins and are therefore bona fide GPCRs. Disrupting a class X receptor is shown to dysregulate the transcriptional coordination of virulence traits during infection. This amounts to enhanced wheat defensive responses, including chitinase and plant cell wall biosynthesis, resulting in apoplastic and vascular occlusions that impede infection. Our results show that GPCR signalling is important to FHB disease establishment.

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