The lack of techniques for rapid assembly of gene deletion vectors, paucity of selectable marker genes available for genetic manipulation and low frequency of homologous recombination are major constraints in construction of gene deletion mutants in Zymoseptoria tritici. To address these issues, we have constructed ternary vectors for Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation of Z. tritici, which enable the single step assembly of multiple fragments via yeast recombinational cloning. The sulfonylurea resistance gene, which is a mutated allele of the Magnaporthe oryzae ILV2 gene, was established as a new dominant selectable marker for Z. tritici. To increase the frequency of homologous recombination, we have constructed Z. tritici strains deficient in the non-homologous end joining pathway of DNA double stranded break repair by inactivating the KU70 and KU80 genes. Targeted gene deletion frequency increased to more than 85% in both Z. tritici ku70 and ku80 null strains, compared to ⩽10% seen in the wild type parental strain IPO323. The in vitro growth and in planta pathogenicity of the Z. tritici ku70 and ku80 null strains were comparable to strain IPO323. Together these molecular tools add significantly to the platform available for genomic analysis through targeted gene deletion or promoter replacements and will facilitate large-scale functional characterization projects in Z. tritici.
Keywords: Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation; Gene targeting frequency; Homologous recombination; Ku70; Ku80; Non homologous end joining mutants; Sulfonylurea; Yeast recombinational cloning; Zymoseptoria tritici.
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