Autophagy is a conserved cellular recycling and trafficking pathway in eukaryotic cells and has been reported to be important in the virulence of a number of microbial pathogens. Here, we report genome-wide identification and characterization of autophagy-related genes (ATGs) in the wheat pathogenic fungus Fusarium graminearum. We identified twenty-eight genes associated with the regulation and operation of autophagy in F. graminearum. Using targeted gene deletion, we generated a set of 28 isogenic mutants. Autophagy mutants were classified into two groups by differences in their growth patterns. Radial growth of 18 Group 1 ATG mutants was significantly reduced compared to the wild-type strain PH-1, while 10 Group 2 mutants grew normally. Loss of any of the ATG genes, except FgATG17, prevented the fungus from causing Fusarium head blight disease. Moreover, subsets of autophagy genes were necessary for asexual/sexual differentiation and deoxynivalenol (DON) production, respectively. FgATG1 and FgATG5 were investigated in detail and showed severe defects in autophagy. Taken together, we conclude that autophagy plays a critical role in growth, asexual/sexual sporulation, deoxynivalenol production and virulence in F. graminearum.
- VEGETATIVE GROWTH
- HEAD BLIGHT