Pathocycles: Ustilago maydis as a model to study the relationships between cell cycle and virulence in pathogenic fungi

Mol Genet Genomics. 2006 Sep;276(3):211-29. doi: 10.1007/s00438-006-0152-6. Epub 2006 Jul 29.


Activation of virulence in pathogenic fungi often involves differentiation processes that need the reset of the cell cycle and induction of a new morphogenetic program. Therefore, the fungal capability to modify its cell cycle constitutes an important determinant in carrying out a successful infection. The dimorphic fungus Ustilago maydis is the causative agent of corn smut disease and has lately become a highly attractive model in addressing fundamental questions about development in pathogenic fungi. The different morphological and genetic changes of U. maydis cells during the pathogenic process advocate an accurate control of the cell cycle in these transitions. This is why this model pathogen deserves attention as a powerful tool in analyzing the relationships between cell cycle, morphogenesis, and pathogenicity. The aim of this review is to summarize recent advances in the unveiling of cell cycle regulation in U. maydis. We also discuss the connection between cell cycle and virulence and how cell cycle control is an important downstream target in the fungus-plant interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Ustilago / cytology*
  • Ustilago / pathogenicity*
  • Virulence