Toxicity of Potential Fungal Defense Proteins towards the Fungivorous Nematodes Aphelenchus avenae and Bursaphelenchus okinawaensis

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2018 Nov 15;84(23):e02051-18. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02051-18. Print 2018 Dec 1.


Resistance of fungi to predation is thought to be mediated by toxic metabolites and proteins. Many of these fungal defense effectors are highly abundant in the fruiting body and not produced in the vegetative mycelium. The defense function of fruiting body-specific proteins, however, including cytoplasmically localized lectins and antinutritional proteins such as biotin-binding proteins, is mainly based on toxicity assays using bacteria as a heterologous expression system, with bacterivorous/omnivorous model organisms as predators. Here, we present an ecologically more relevant experimental setup to assess the toxicity of potential fungal defense proteins towards the fungivorous, stylet-feeding nematodes Aphelenchus avenae and Bursaphelenchus okinawaensis As a heterologous expression host, we exploited the filamentous fungus Ashbya gossypii Using this new system, we assessed the toxicity of six previously characterized, cytoplasmically localized, potential defense proteins from fruiting bodies of different fungal phyla against the two fungivorous nematodes. We found that all of the tested proteins were toxic against both nematodes, albeit to various degrees. The toxicity of these proteins against both fungivorous and bacterivorous nematodes suggests that their targets have been conserved between the different feeding groups of nematodes and that bacterivorous nematodes are valid model organisms to assess the nematotoxicity of potential fungal defense proteins.IMPORTANCE Our results support the hypothesis that cytoplasmic proteins abundant in fungal fruiting bodies are involved in fungal resistance against predation. The toxicity of these proteins toward stylet-feeding nematodes, which are also capable of feeding on plants, and the abundance of these proteins in edible mushrooms, may open possible avenues for biological crop protection against parasitic nematodes, e.g., by expression of these proteins in crops.

Keywords: Ashbya gossypii; avidin; filamentous fungus; lectin; mycophagy; nematotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Fruiting Bodies, Fungal / chemistry
  • Fungal Proteins / toxicity*
  • Fungi / chemistry*
  • Tylenchida / drug effects*
  • Tylenchida / physiology


  • Fungal Proteins