Background: So far, biocontrol agent selection has been performed mainly by time consuming in vitro confrontation tests followed by extensive trials in greenhouse and field. An alternative approach is offered by application of high-throughput techniques, which allow extensive screening and comparison among strains for desired genetic traits. In the genus Trichoderma, the past assignments of particular features or strains to one species need to be reconsidered according to the recent taxonomic revisions. Here we present the genome of a biocontrol strain formerly known as Trichoderma harzianum ITEM 908, which exhibits both growth promoting capabilities and antagonism against different fungal pathogens, including Fusarium graminearum, Rhizoctonia solani, and the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita. By genomic analysis of ITEM 908 we investigated the occurrence and the relevance of genes associated to biocontrol and stress tolerance, providing a basis for future investigation aiming to unravel the complex relationships between genomic endowment and exhibited activities of this strain.
Results: The MLST analysis of ITS-TEF1 concatenated datasets reclassified ITEM 908 as T. atrobrunneum, a species recently described within the T. harzianum species complex and phylogenetically close to T. afroharzianum and T. guizhouense. Genomic analysis revealed the presence of a broad range of genes encoding for carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZYmes), proteins involved in secondary metabolites production, peptaboils, epidithiodioxopiperazines and siderophores potentially involved in parasitism, saprophytic degradation as well as in biocontrol and antagonistic activities. This abundance is comparable to other Trichoderma spp. in the T. harzianum species complex, but broader than in other biocontrol species and in the species T. reesei, known for its industrial application in cellulase production. Comparative analysis also demonstrated similar genomic organization of major secondary metabolites clusters, as in other Trichoderma species.
Conclusions: Reported data provide a contribution to a deeper understanding of the mode of action and identification of activity-specific genetic markers useful for selection and improvement of biocontrol strains. This work will also enlarge the availability of genomic data to perform comparative studies with the aim to correlate phenotypic differences with genetic diversity of Trichoderma species.
Keywords: Antagonism; Biocontrol; CAZYmes; Comparative genomics; Mycoparasitism; Peptaibols; Secondary metabolites; Trichoderma.