Investigating the cell and developmental biology of plant infection by the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae

Alice Bisola Eseola, Lauren S. Ryder, Míriam Osés-Ruiz, Kim Findlay, Xia Yan, Neftaly Cruz-Mireles, Camilla Molinari, Marisela Garduño-Rosales, Nicholas J. Talbot

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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Magnaporthe oryzae is the causal agent of rice blast disease, the most widespread and serious disease of cultivated rice. Live cell imaging and quantitative 4D image analysis have provided new insight into the mechanisms by which the fungus infects host cells and spreads rapidly in plant tissue. In this video review article, we apply live cell imaging approaches to understanding the cell and developmental biology of rice blast disease. To gain entry to host plants, M. oryzae develops a specialised infection structure called an appressorium, a unicellular dome-shaped cell which generates enormous turgor, translated into mechanical force to rupture the leaf cuticle. Appressorium development is induced by perception of the hydrophobic leaf surface and nutrient deprivation. Cargo-independent autophagy in the three-celled conidium, controlled by cell cycle regulation, is essential for appressorium morphogenesis. Appressorium maturation involves turgor generation and melanin pigment deposition in the appressorial cell wall. Once a threshold of turgor has been reached, this triggers re-polarisation which requires regulated generation of reactive oxygen species, to facilitate septin GTPase-dependent cytoskeletal re-organisation and re-polarisation of the appressorium to form a narrow, rigid penetration peg. Infection of host tissue requires a further morphogenetic transition to a pseudohyphal-type of growth within colonised rice cells. At the same time the fungus secretes an arsenal of effector proteins to suppress plant immunity. Many effectors are secreted into host cells directly, which involves a specific secretory pathway and a specialised structure called the biotrophic interfacial complex. Cell-to-cell spread of the fungus then requires development of a specialised structure, the transpressorium, that is used to traverse pit field sites, allowing the fungus to maintain host cell membrane integrity as new living plant cells are invaded. Thereafter, the fungus rapidly moves through plant tissue and host cells begin to die, as the fungus switches to necrotrophic growth and disease symptoms develop. These morphogenetic transitions are reviewed in the context of live cell imaging studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103562
JournalFungal Genetics and Biology
Early online date18 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • Actin
  • Appressorium
  • Biotrophy
  • Effectors
  • Necrotrophy
  • Septins

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