A fungal pathogen induces systemic susceptibility and systemic shifts in wheat metabolome and microbiome composition

Nat Commun. 2020 Apr 20;11(1):1910. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15633-x.


Yield losses caused by fungal pathogens represent a major threat to global food production. One of the most devastating fungal wheat pathogens is Zymoseptoria tritici. Despite the importance of this fungus, the underlying mechanisms of plant-pathogen interactions are poorly understood. Here we present a conceptual framework based on coinfection assays, comparative metabolomics, and microbiome profiling to study the interaction of Z. tritici in susceptible and resistant wheat. We demonstrate that Z. tritici suppresses the production of immune-related metabolites in a susceptible cultivar. Remarkably, this fungus-induced immune suppression spreads within the leaf and even to other leaves, a phenomenon that we term "systemic induced susceptibility". Using a comparative metabolomics approach, we identify defense-related biosynthetic pathways that are suppressed and induced in susceptible and resistant cultivars, respectively. We show that these fungus-induced changes correlate with changes in the wheat leaf microbiome. Our findings suggest that immune suppression by this hemibiotrophic pathogen impacts specialized plant metabolism, alters its associated microbial communities, and renders wheat vulnerable to further infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ascomycota / metabolism*
  • Ascomycota / pathogenicity
  • Benzoxazines / metabolism
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Coinfection
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Metabolome*
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Plant Immunity / physiology*
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology
  • Secondary Metabolism
  • Triticum / immunology
  • Triticum / microbiology


  • Benzoxazines