To cause plant disease, pathogenic fungi can secrete effector proteins into plant cells to suppress plant immunity and facilitate fungal infection. Most fungal pathogens infect plants using very long strand-like cells, called hyphae, that secrete effectors from their tips into host tissue. How fungi undergo long-distance cell signalling to regulate effector production during infection is not known. Here we show that long-distance retrograde motility of early endosomes (EEs) is necessary to trigger transcription of effector-encoding genes during plant infection by the pathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis. We demonstrate that motor-dependent retrograde EE motility is necessary for regulation of effector production and secretion during host cell invasion. We further show that retrograde signalling involves the mitogen-activated kinase Crk1 that travels on EEs and participates in control of effector production. Fungal pathogens therefore undergo long-range signalling to orchestrate host invasion.