Plant pathogenic and beneficial fungi have evolved several strategies to evade immunity and cope with host-derived hydrolytic enzymes and oxidative stress in the apoplast, the extracellular space of plant tissues. Fungal hyphae are surrounded by an inner insoluble cell wall layer and an outer soluble extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) matrix. Here, we show by proteomics and glycomics that these two layers have distinct protein and carbohydrate signatures, and hence likely have different biological functions. The barley (Hordeum vulgare) β-1,3-endoglucanase HvBGLUII, which belongs to the widely distributed apoplastic glycoside hydrolase 17 family (GH17), releases a conserved β-1,3;1,6-glucan decasaccharide (β-GD) from the EPS matrices of fungi with different lifestyles and taxonomic positions. This low molecular weight β-GD does not activate plant immunity, is resilient to further enzymatic hydrolysis by β-1,3-endoglucanases due to the presence of three β-1,6-linked glucose branches and can scavenge reactive oxygen species. Exogenous application of β-GD leads to enhanced fungal colonization in barley, confirming its role in the fungal counter-defensive strategy to subvert host immunity. Our data highlight the hitherto undescribed capacity of this often-overlooked EPS matrix from plant-associated fungi to act as an outer protective barrier important for fungal accommodation within the hostile environment at the apoplastic plant-microbe interface.
� The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Society of Plant Biologists.