Plant Pathogenic Fungi

Microbiol Spectr. 2017 Jan;5(1). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.FUNK-0023-2016.


Fungi are among the dominant causal agents of plant diseases. To colonize plants and cause disease, pathogenic fungi use diverse strategies. Some fungi kill their hosts and feed on dead material (necrotrophs), while others colonize the living tissue (biotrophs). For successful invasion of plant organs, pathogenic development is tightly regulated and specialized infection structures are formed. To further colonize hosts and establish disease, fungal pathogens deploy a plethora of virulence factors. Depending on the infection strategy, virulence factors perform different functions. While basically all pathogens interfere with primary plant defense, necrotrophs secrete toxins to kill plant tissue. In contrast, biotrophs utilize effector molecules to suppress plant cell death and manipulate plant metabolism in favor of the pathogen. This article provides an overview of plant pathogenic fungal species and the strategies they use to cause disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fungi / growth & development*
  • Fungi / pathogenicity*
  • Mycotoxins / metabolism
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology*
  • Plants / microbiology*
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • Mycotoxins
  • Virulence Factors