Research reveals how rice blast fungus invades plants
Speaking about their key contributions to the study, Prof. Talbot said: "This work was led at Exeter by three extremely talented students who forged close links with laboratories in the USA and Japan. They worked exceptionally hard and are a great credit to the University."
Rice blast disease is a threat to global food security and is closely related to wheat blast, a newly emerging disease that threatens wheat production in Brazil and which is spreading across South America. Because rice and wheat are the most important food staples worldwide, learning about these diseases is incredibly important to ensuring global food security.
The researchers found that the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae has evolved a novel secretion system for effectors that go inside the plant cell. In contrast, effectors that end up in the space outside the plant cells are secreted by a classical system, which is shared by organisms from fungi to humans.
In this study, the international team focused on investigating how the fungus secretes effectors during invasion of rice tissue by producing strains secreting effectors linked to fluorescent proteins from jellyfish and corals. They performed microscopy to watch the fungus secreting these fluorescent proteins as it grows inside rice cells, and noticed that normal treatments that block protein secretion didn't stop those effectors that end up inside rice cells.
Identifying how these processes function will advance understanding of how disease micro-organisms evolve and will prove pivotal in controlling blast disease.