A single fungal MAP kinase controls plant cell-to-cell invasion by the rice blast fungus

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Science  23 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6382, pp. 1399-1403
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq0892

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Keeping the channels open

When the rice blast fungus enters a rice cell, the plasma membrane stays intact, so the rice cell remains viable. The fungus then moves to adjacent cells via plasmodesmata, the plant's intercellular channels. Sakulkoo et al. used a chemical genetic approach to selectively inhibit a single MAP (mitogen-activated protein) kinase, Pmk1, in the blast fungus. Inhibition of Pmk1 trapped the fungus within a rice cell. Pmk1 regulated the expression of a suite of effector genes involved in suppression of host immunity, allowing the fungus to manipulate plasmodesmal conductance. At the same time, Pmk1 regulated the fungus's hyphal constriction, which allows movement into new host cells.

Science, this issue p. 1399


Blast disease destroys up to 30% of the rice crop annually and threatens global food security. The blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae invades plant tissue with hyphae that proliferate and grow from cell to cell, often through pit fields, where plasmodesmata cluster. We showed that chemical genetic inhibition of a single fungal mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, Pmk1, prevents M. oryzae from infecting adjacent plant cells, leaving the fungus trapped within a single plant cell. Pmk1 regulates expression of secreted fungal effector proteins implicated in suppression of host immune defenses, preventing reactive oxygen species generation and excessive callose deposition at plasmodesmata. Furthermore, Pmk1 controls the hyphal constriction required for fungal growth from one rice cell to the neighboring cell, enabling host tissue colonization and blast disease.

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