Metabolic priming by a secreted fungal effector

Nature. 2011 Oct 5;478(7369):395-8. doi: 10.1038/nature10454.


Maize smut caused by the fungus Ustilago maydis is a widespread disease characterized by the development of large plant tumours. U. maydis is a biotrophic pathogen that requires living plant tissue for its development and establishes an intimate interaction zone between fungal hyphae and the plant plasma membrane. U. maydis actively suppresses plant defence responses by secreted protein effectors. Its effector repertoire comprises at least 386 genes mostly encoding proteins of unknown function and expressed exclusively during the biotrophic stage. The U. maydis secretome also contains about 150 proteins with probable roles in fungal nutrition, fungal cell wall modification and host penetration as well as proteins unlikely to act in the fungal-host interface like a chorismate mutase. Chorismate mutases are key enzymes of the shikimate pathway and catalyse the conversion of chorismate to prephenate, the precursor for tyrosine and phenylalanine synthesis. Root-knot nematodes inject a secreted chorismate mutase into plant cells likely to affect development. Here we show that the chorismate mutase Cmu1 secreted by U. maydis is a virulence factor. The enzyme is taken up by plant cells, can spread to neighbouring cells and changes the metabolic status of these cells through metabolic priming. Secreted chorismate mutases are found in many plant-associated microbes and might serve as general tools for host manipulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chorismate Mutase / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / enzymology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Metabolome
  • Models, Biological
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plastids / enzymology
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Salicylic Acid / metabolism
  • Two-Hybrid System Techniques
  • Ustilago / enzymology*
  • Ustilago / pathogenicity*
  • Virulence Factors / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*
  • Zea mays / metabolism*
  • Zea mays / microbiology*


  • Plant Proteins
  • Virulence Factors
  • Chorismate Mutase
  • Salicylic Acid