Host range of a plant pathogenic fungus determined by a saponin detoxifying enzyme

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Science  20 Jan 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5196, pp. 371-374
DOI: 10.1126/science.7824933


Antifungal saponins occur in many plant species and may provide a preformed chemical barrier to attack by phytopathogenic fungi. Some fungal pathogens can enzymatically detoxify host plant saponins, which suggests that saponin detoxification may determine the host range of these fungi. A gene encoding a saponin detoxifying enzyme was cloned from the cereal-infecting fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis. Fungal mutants generated by targeted gene disruption were no longer able to infect the saponin-containing host oats but retained full pathogenicity to wheat (which does not contain saponins). Thus, the ability of a phytopathogenic fungus to detoxify a plant saponin can determine its host range.