Transcription factors containing a Zn(II)2 Cys6 binuclear cluster DNA-binding domain are unique to fungi and are key regulators of fungal growth and development. The C6-Zn transcription factor, Pro1, in Sordaria macrospora is crucial for maturation of sexual fruiting bodies. In a forward genetic screen to identify Epichloë festucae symbiosis genes we identified a mutant with an insertion in proA. Plants infected with the proA mutant underwent premature senescence. Hyphae of ΔproA had a proliferative pattern of growth within the leaves of Lolium perenne. Targeted deletion of proA recapitulated this phenotype and introduction of a wild-type gene complemented the mutation. ΔproA was defective in hyphal fusion. qPCR analysis of E. festucae homologues of S. macrospora genes differentially expressed in Δpro1 identified esdC, encoding a glycogen-binding protein, as a target of ProA. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay analysis identified two binding sites for ProA in the intergenic region of esdC and a divergently transcribed gene, EF320. Both esdC and EF320 are highly expressed in a wild-type E. festucae-grass association but downregulated in a proA-mutant association. These results show that ProA is a key regulator of in planta specific growth of E. festucae, and therefore crucial for maintaining a mutualistic symbiotic interaction.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.