Background: The phytopatogen Claviceps paspali is the causal agent of Ergot disease in Paspalum spp., which includes highly productive forage grasses such as P. dilatatum. This disease impacts dairy and beef production by affecting seed quality and producing mycotoxins that can affect performance in feeding animals. The molecular basis of pathogenicity of C. paspali remains unknown, which makes it more difficult to find solutions for this problem. Secreted proteins are related to fungi virulence and can manipulate plant immunity acting on different subcellular localizations. Therefore, identifying and characterizing secreted proteins in phytopathogenic fungi will provide a better understanding of how they overcome host defense and cause disease. The aim of this work is to analyze the whole genome sequences of three C. paspali isolates to obtain a comparative genome characterization based on possible secreted proteins and pathogenicity factors present in their genome. In planta RNA-seq analysis at an early stage of the interaction of C. paspali with P. dilatatum stigmas was also conducted in order to determine possible secreted proteins expressed in the infection process.
Results: C. paspali isolates had compact genomes and secretome which accounted for 4.6-4.9% of the predicted proteomes. More than 50% of the predicted secretome had no homology to known proteins. RNA-Seq revealed that three protein-coding genes predicted as secreted have mayor expression changes during 1 dpi vs 4 dpi. Also, three of the first 10 highly expressed genes in both time points were predicted as effector-like. CAZyme-like proteins were found in the predicted secretome and the most abundant family could be associated to pectine degradation. Based on this, pectine could be a main component affected by the cell wall degrading enzymes of C. paspali.
Conclusions: Based on predictions from DNA sequence and RNA-seq, unique probable secreted proteins and probable pathogenicity factors were identified in C. paspali isolates. This information opens new avenues in the study of the biology of this fungus and how it modulates the interaction with its host. Knowledge of the diversity of the secretome and putative pathogenicity genes should facilitate future research in disease management of Claviceps spp.
Keywords: Biotroph; Comparative genomics; Effectors; In silico prediction; Pathogenicity factors.
© 2021. The Author(s).