The AGC Kinase SsAgc1 Regulates Sporisorium scitamineum Mating/Filamentation and Pathogenicity

mSphere. 2019 May 29;4(3):e00259-19. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00259-19.


Sporisorium scitamineum is the fungal pathogen causing severe sugarcane smut disease that leads to massive economic losses globally. S. scitamineum invades host cane by dikaryotic hyphae, formed after sexual mating of two haploid sporidia of opposite mating type. Therefore, mating/filamentation is critical for S. scitamineum pathogenicity, while its molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. The AGC (cyclic AMP [cAMP]-dependent protein kinase 1 [protein kinase A {PKA}], cGMP-dependent protein kinase [PKG], and protein kinase C [PKC]) kinase family is a group of serine/threonine (Ser/Thr) protein kinases conserved among eukaryotic genomes, serving a variety of physiological functions, including cell growth, metabolism, differentiation, and cell death. In this study, we identified an AGC kinase, named SsAgc1 (for S. scitamineum Agc1), and characterized its function by reverse genetics. Our results showed that SsAgc1 is critical for S. scitamineum mating/filamentation and pathogenicity, and oxidative stress tolerance under some circumstances. Transcriptional profiling revealed that the SsAgc1 signaling pathway may control expression of the genes governing fungal mating/filamentation and tryptophan metabolism, especially for tryptophol production. We showed that tryptophan and tryptophol could at least partially restore ssagc1Δ mating/filamentation. Overall, our work revealed a signaling pathway mediated by AGC protein kinases to regulate fungal mating/filamentation, possibly through sensing and responding to tryptophol as signal molecules.IMPORTANCE The AGC signaling pathway represents a conserved distinct signaling pathway in regulation of fungal differentiation and virulence, while it has not been identified or characterized in the sugarcane smut fungus Sporisorium scitamineum In this study, we identified a PAS domain-containing AGC kinase, SsAgc1, in S. scitamineum Functional analysis revealed that SsAgc1 plays a regulatory role on the fungal dimorphic switch.

Keywords: AGC kinase; Sporisorium scitamineum; cAMP; filamentous growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal
  • Genes, Mating Type, Fungal*
  • Hyphae
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Saccharum / microbiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tryptophan / metabolism
  • Ustilaginales / enzymology*
  • Ustilaginales / genetics
  • Ustilaginales / pathogenicity
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Virulence Factors
  • Tryptophan
  • Protein Kinases