Superoxide Initiates the Hyphal Differentiation to Microsclerotia Formation of Macrophomina phaseolina

Microbiol Spectr. 2022 Feb 23;10(1):e0208421. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.02084-21. Epub 2022 Jan 26.


The infection of Macrophomina phaseolina often results in a grayish appearance with numerous survival structures, microsclerotia, on the plant surface. Past works have studied the development of fungal survival structures, sclerotia and microsclerotia, in the Leotiomycetes and Sordariomycetes. However, M. phaseolina belongs to the Dothideomycetes, and it remains unclear whether the mechanism of microsclerotia formation remains conserved among these phylogenetic clades. This study applied RNA-sequencing (RNA-Seq) to profile gene expressions at four stages of microsclerotia formation, and the results suggested that reactive oxygen species (ROS)-related functions were significantly different between the microsclerotia stages and the hyphal stage. Microsclerotia formation was reduced in the plates amended with antioxidants such as ascorbic acid, dithiothreitol (DTT), and glutathione. Surprisingly, DTT drastically scavenged H2O2, but the microsclerotia amount remained similar to the treatment of ascorbic acid and glutathione that both did not completely eliminate H2O2. This observation suggested the importance of [Formula: see text] over H2O2 in initiating microsclerotia formation. To further validate this hypothesis, the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) inhibitor diethyldithiocarbamate trihydrate (DETC) and H2O2 were tested. The addition of DETC resulted in the accumulation of endogenous [Formula: see text] and more microsclerotia formation, but the treatment of H2O2 did not. The expression of SOD1 genes were also found to be upregulated in the hyphae to the microsclerotia stage, which suggested a higher endogenous [Formula: see text] stress presented in these stages. In summary, this study not only showed that the ROS stimulation remained conserved for initiating microsclerotia formation of M. phaseolina but also highlighted the importance of [Formula: see text] in initiating the hyphal differentiation to microsclerotia formation. IMPORTANCE Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been proposed as the key stimulus for sclerotia development by studying fungal systems such as Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, and the theory has been adapted for microsclerotia development in Verticillium dahliae and Nomuraea rileyi. While many studies agreed on the association between (micro)sclerotia development and the ROS pathway, which ROS type, superoxide ([Formula: see text]) or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), plays a major role in initiating hyphal differentiation to the (micro)sclerotia formation remains controversial, and literature supporting either [Formula: see text] or H2O2 can be found. This study confirmed the association between ROS and microsclerotia formation for the charcoal rot fungus Macrophomina phaseolina. Moreover, the accumulation of [Formula: see text] but not H2O2 was found to induce higher density of microsclerotia. By integrating transcriptomic and phenotypic assays, this study presented the first conclusive case for M. phaseolina that [Formula: see text] is the main ROS stimulus in determining the amount of microsclerotia formation.

Keywords: Macrophomina phaseolina; hydrogen peroxide (H2O2); microsclerotia; reactive oxygen species (ROS); superoxide (O2−).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ascomycota / drug effects*
  • Ascomycota / genetics
  • Ascomycota / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression
  • Glutathione
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Hyphae / drug effects*
  • Hyphae / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Superoxides / pharmacology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Superoxides
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Glutathione

Supplementary concepts

  • Macrophomina phaseolina