The fungus Venturia inaequalis infects members of the Maloideae, and causes the disease apple scab, the most important disease of apple worldwide. The early elucidation of the gene-for-gene relationship between V. inaequalis and its host Malus has intrigued plant pathologists ever since, with the identification of 17 resistance (R)-avirulence (Avr) gene pairings. The Avr gene products are presumably a subset of the total effector arsenal of V. inaequalis (predominantly proteins secreted in planta assumed to facilitate infection). The supposition that effectors from V. inaequalis act as suppressors of plant defence is supported by the ability of the pathogen to penetrate the cuticle and differentiate into large pseudoparenchymatous structures, termed stromata, in the subcuticular space, without the initiation of an effective plant defence response. If effectors can be identified that are essential for pathogenicity, the corresponding R genes will be durable and would add significant value to breeding programmes. An R gene cluster in Malus has been cloned, but no V. inaequalis effectors have been characterized at the molecular level. However, the identification of effectors is likely to be facilitated by the resolution of the whole genome sequence of V. inaequalis.
Taxonomy: Teleomorph: Venturia inaequalis Cooke (Wint.); Kingdom Fungi; Phylum Ascomycota; Subphylum Euascomycota; Class Dothideomycetes; Family Venturiaceae; genus Venturia; species inaequalis. Anamorph: Fusicladium pomi (Fr.) Lind or Spilocaea pomi (Fr.). LIFE CYCLE: V. inaequalis is a hemibiotroph and overwinters as pseudothecia (sexual fruiting bodies) following a phase of saprobic growth in fallen leaf tissues. The primary inoculum consists of ascospores, which germinate and penetrate the cuticle. Stromata are formed above the epidermal cells but do not penetrate them. Cell wall-degrading enzymes are only produced late in the infection cycle, raising the as yet unanswered question as to how V. inaequalis gains nutrients from the host. Conidia (secondary inoculum) arise from the upper surface of the stromata, and are produced throughout the growing season, initiating multiple rounds of infection. VENTURIA INAEQUALIS AS A MODEL PATHOGEN OF A WOODY HOST: V. inaequalis can be cultured and is amenable to crossing in vitro, enabling map-based cloning strategies. It can be transformed readily, and functional analyses can be conducted by gene silencing. Expressed sequence tag collections are available to aid in gene identification. These will be complemented by the whole genome sequence, which, in turn, will contribute to the comparative analysis of different races of V. inaequalis and plant pathogens within the Dothideomycetes.
© 2010 The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Ltd. Molecular Plant Pathology © 2010 BSPP and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.