Cochliobolus sativus (anamorph: Bipolaris sorokiniana) is a filamentous fungus from the class Dothideomycetes. It is a pathogen of cereals including wheat and barley, and causes foliar spot blotch, root rot, black point on grains, head blight, leaf blight, and seedling blight diseases. Annual yields of these economically important cereals are severely reduced due to this pathogen attack. Evolution of fungicide resistant pathogen strains, availability of a limited number of potent antifungal compounds, and their efficacy are the acute issues in field management of phytopathogenic fungi. Propiconazole is a widely used azole fungicide to control the disease in fields. The known targets of azoles are the demethylase enzymes involved in ergosterol biosynthesis. Nonetheless, azoles have multiple modes of action, some of which have not been explored yet. Identifying the off-target effects of fungicides by dissecting gene expression profiles in response to them can provide insights into their modes of action and possible mechanisms of fungicide resistance. Moreover it can also reveal additional targets for development of new fungicides. Hence, we analyzed the global gene expression profile of C. sativus on exposure to sub-lethal doses of propiconazole in a time series. The gene expression patterns were confirmed using quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR). This study revealed overexpression of target genes from the sterol biosynthesis pathway supporting the reported mode of resistance against azoles. In addition, some new potential targets have also been identified, which could be explored to develop new fungicides and plant protection strategies.
Keywords: Bipolaris sorokiniana; Cochliobolus sativus; Fungicide resistance; Propiconazole; RNA-seq; Transcriptomics analysis.