Heterokaryon Incompatibility Is Suppressed Following Conidial Anastomosis Tube Fusion in a Fungal Plant Pathogen

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  • It has been hypothesized that horizontal gene/chromosome transfer and parasexual recombination following hyphal fusion between different strains may contribute to the emergence of wide genetic variability in plant pathogenic and other fungi. However, the significance of vegetative (heterokaryon) incompatibility responses, which commonly result in cell death, in preventing these processes is not known. In this study, we have assessed this issue following different types of hyphal fusion during colony initiation and in the mature colony. We used vegetatively compatible and incompatible strains of the common bean pathogen Colletotrichum lindemuthianum in which nuclei were labelled with either a green or red fluorescent protein in order to microscopically monitor the fates of nuclei and heterokaryotic cells following hyphal fusion. As opposed to fusion of hyphae in mature colonies that resulted in cell death within 3 h, fusions by conidial anastomosis tubes (CAT) between two incompatible strains during colony initiation did not induce the vegetative incompatibility response. Instead, fused conidia and germlings survived and formed heterokaryotic colonies that in turn produced uninucleate conidia that germinated to form colonies with phenotypic features different to those of either parental strain. Our results demonstrate that the vegetative incompatibility response is suppressed during colony initiation in C. lindemuthianum. Thus, CAT fusion may allow asexual fungi to increase their genetic diversity, and to acquire new pathogenic traits.
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  • Ishikawa, F. H., Souza, E. A., Shoji, J., Connolly, L., Freitag, M., Read, N. D., & Roca, M. G. (2012). Heterokaryon incompatibility is suppressed following conidial anastomosis tube fusion in a fungal plant pathogen. PloS One, 7(2), e31175.
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  • 7
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  • 2
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  • This work was supported by grants and a scholarship from CNPQ (Brazil) to Francine Ishikawa and Elaine Souza, by a grant from the American Cancer Society (RSG-08-030-01-CCG) to Michael Freitag and a grant from the Biotechnological and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/E010741/1) to Nick Read.
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