Chitin synthase is involved in vegetative growth, asexual reproduction and pathogenesis of Phytophthora capsici and Phytophthora sojae.Environ Microbiol. 2019 12; 21(12):4537-4547.EM
Chitin is a structural and functional component of the fungal cell wall and also serves as a pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) that triggers the innate immune responses of host plants. However, no or very little chitin is found in the fungus-like oomycetes. In Phytophthora spp., the presence of chitin has not been demonstrated so far, although putative chitin synthase (CHS) genes, which encode the enzymes that synthesize chitin, are present in their genomes. Here, we revealed that chitin is present in the zoospores and released sporangia of Phytophthora, and this is most consistent with the transcriptional pattern of PcCHS in Phytophthora capsici and PsCHS1 in Phytophthora sojae. Disruption of the CHS genes indicated that PcCHS and PsCHS1, but not PsCHS2 (which exhibited very weak transcription), have similar functions involved in mycelial growth, sporangial production, zoospore release and the pathogenesis of P. capsici and P. sojae. We also suggest that chitin in the zoospores of P. capsici can act as a PAMP that is recognized by the chitin receptors AtLYK5 or AtCERK1 of Arabidopsis. These results provide new insights into the biological significance of chitin and CHSs in Phytophthora and help with the identification of potential targets for disease control.