Researchers understand the mechanisms of deadly fungal infections

Worldwide research on Fusarium oxysporum, one of the most devastating fungi for crops, discovered that the lack of a certain type of enzyme boosts the incidence of infection while decreasing the pathogen’s tendency to expand, paving the way for new ways to limit its infection.

Researchers understand the mechanisms of deadly fungal infections—a major threat to the agricultural industry
Researchers of the UCO Fusarium Lab. Image Credit: University of Cordoba

Due to its lethality and propensity to infect over a hundred crops, the Fusarium oxysporum fungus is one of the most hazardous plant diseases in the world, causing a major burden for the agricultural industry.

In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, two researchers from the University of Córdoba engaged in an international investigation that gave new insight into its infectious processes. The findings could lead to the development of novel disease control techniques.

The research, which was conducted in partnership with the Federal Polytechnic Institute of Zurich and the University of Paris-Saclay, concentrated on cellulases, a family of enzymes that the fungus utilizes to break down the plant’s cell walls.

To analyze how the modified pathogen behaves under these settings, the researchers mutated a gene in the fungus to mute a significant number of cellulases while also “deactivating” these proteins, which affect crops’ plant walls.

The study discovered that without these enzymes, the fungus acts considerably more vigorously, speeding up the infection and causing the plant to die. However, it reduces the ability of the virus to propagate to other crops via spores, indicating that these proteins are more critical in the latter stages of infection.

Cellulases have long been thought to play an important role in fungi infection.

However, as emphasized by the researcher Antonio Di Pietro, a professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cordoba, and one of the authors of the study, “this is the first time that the absence of these proteins has been shown to accelerate the infection,” conflicting to what was earlier understood.

As a result, the research opens the room for future measures to lower the pathogen’s prevalence.

The control of this protein can be a way to combat infection by the fungus.”

Antonio Di Pietro, Professor, Genetics, University Of Cordoba

When the Fusarium oxysporum pathogen recognizes the root of a plant, it grows straight into it and infects its entire vascular system. Furthermore, it is impossible to avoid infection once it comes into touch with the crop, and its spores can survive in the soil for more than 20 years. As a result, one of the key problems faced by the agriculture sector is containing its spread.

Journal reference:

Gámez-Arjona, F. A., et al. (2022) Impairment of the cellulose degradation machinery enhances Fusarium oxysporum virulence but limits its reproductive fitness. Science Advances.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
Researchers get a complete atlas of zebrafish genetic data for biomedical research