Lifestyle, gene gain and loss, and transcriptional remodeling cause divergence in the transcriptomes of Phytophthora infestans and Pythium ultimum during potato tuber colonization.BMC Genomics. 2017 Oct 10; 18(1):764.BG
How pathogen genomes evolve to support distinct lifestyles is not well-understood. The oomycete Phytophthora infestans, the potato blight agent, is a largely biotrophic pathogen that feeds from living host cells, which become necrotic only late in infection. The related oomycete Pythium ultimum grows saprophytically in soil and as a necrotroph in plants, causing massive tissue destruction. To learn what distinguishes their lifestyles, we compared their gene contents and expression patterns in media and a shared host, potato tuber.
Genes related to pathogenesis varied in temporal expression pattern, mRNA level, and family size between the species. A family's aggregate expression during infection was not proportional to size due to transcriptional remodeling and pseudogenization. Ph. infestans had more stage-specific genes, while Py. ultimum tended towards more constitutive expression. Ph. infestans expressed more genes encoding secreted cell wall-degrading enzymes, but other categories such as secreted proteases and ABC transporters had higher transcript levels in Py. ultimum. Species-specific genes were identified including new Pythium genes, perforins, which may disrupt plant membranes. Genome-wide ortholog analyses identified substantial diversified expression, which correlated with sequence divergence. Pseudogenization was associated with gene family expansion, especially in gene clusters.
This first large-scale analysis of transcriptional divergence within oomycetes revealed major shifts in genome composition and expression, including subfunctionalization within gene families. Biotrophy and necrotrophy seem determined by species-specific genes and the varied expression of shared pathogenicity factors, which may be useful targets for crop protection.