An RNA silencing construct was used to alter mycotoxin production in the plant pathogenic fungus Fusarium culmorum, the incitant of crown and foot rot on wheat. The transformation of a wild-type strain and its nitrate reductase-deficient mutant with inverted repeat transgenes (IRTs) containing sequences corresponding to the trichothecene regulatory gene TRI6 was achieved using hygromycin B resistance as a selectable marker. Southern analysis revealed a variety of integration patterns of the TRI6 IRT. One transformant underwent homologous recombination with deletion of the endogenous TRI6 gene, whereas, in another transformant, the TRI6 IRT was not integrated into the genome. The TRI6 IRT did not alter the physiological characteristics, such as spore production, pigmentation or growth rate, on solid media. In most transformants, a high TRI6 amplification signal was detected by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, corresponding to a TRI6-hybridizing smear of degraded fragments by Northern analysis, whereas TRI5 expression decreased compared with the respective nontransformed strain. Four transformants showed increased TRI5 expression, which was correlated with a dramatic (up to 28-fold) augmentation of deoxynivalenol production. Pathogenicity assays on durum wheat seedlings confirmed that impairment of deoxynivalenol production in the TRI6 IRT transformants correlated with a loss of virulence, with decreased disease indices ranging from 40% to 80% in nine silenced strains, whereas the overproducing transformants displayed higher virulence compared with the wild-type.
© 2011 THE AUTHORS. MOLECULAR PLANT PATHOLOGY © 2011 BSPP AND BLACKWELL PUBLISHING LTD.