Background: Fungal plant pathogens belonging to the genus Venturia cause damaging scab diseases of members of the Rosaceae. In terms of economic impact, the most important of these are V. inaequalis, which infects apple, and V. pirina, which is a pathogen of European pear. Given that Venturia fungi colonise the sub-cuticular space without penetrating plant cells, it is assumed that effectors that contribute to virulence and determination of host range will be secreted into this plant-pathogen interface. Thus the predicted secretomes of a range of isolates of Venturia with distinct host-ranges were interrogated to reveal putative proteins involved in virulence and pathogenicity.
Results: Genomes of Venturia pirina (one European pear scab isolate) and Venturia inaequalis (three apple scab, and one loquat scab, isolates) were sequenced and the predicted secretomes of each isolate identified. RNA-Seq was conducted on the apple-specific V. inaequalis isolate Vi1 (in vitro and infected apple leaves) to highlight virulence and pathogenicity components of the secretome. Genes encoding over 600 small secreted proteins (candidate effectors) were identified, most of which are novel to Venturia, with expansion of putative effector families a feature of the genus. Numerous genes with similarity to Leptosphaeria maculans AvrLm6 and the Verticillium spp. Ave1 were identified. Candidates for avirulence effectors with cognate resistance genes involved in race-cultivar specificity were identified, as were putative proteins involved in host-species determination. Candidate effectors were found, on average, to be in regions of relatively low gene-density and in closer proximity to repeats (e.g. transposable elements), compared with core eukaryotic genes.
Conclusions: Comparative secretomics has revealed candidate effectors from Venturia fungal plant pathogens that attack pome fruit. Effectors that are putative determinants of host range were identified; both those that may be involved in race-cultivar and host-species specificity. Since many of the effector candidates are in close proximity to repetitive sequences this may point to a possible mechanism for the effector gene family expansion observed and a route to diversification via transposition and repeat-induced point mutation.
Keywords: Apple; Effector; European pear; Malus x domestica; Pyrus communis; Secretome; Venturia inaequalis; Venturia pirina.