Elife 5 (Nov 11 2016)
Due to their economic relevance, the study of plant pathogen interactions is of importance. However, elucidating these interactions and their underlying molecular mechanisms remains challenging since both host and pathogen need to be fully genetically accessible organisms. Here we present milestones in the establishment of a new biotrophic model pathosystem: Ustilago bromivora and Brachypodium sp. We provide a complete toolset, including an annotated fungal genome and methods for genetic manipulation of the fungus and its host plant. This toolset will enable researchers to easily study biotrophic interactions at the molecular level on both the pathogen and the host side. Moreover, our research on the fungal life cycle revealed a mating type bias phenomenon. U. bromivora harbors a haplo-lethal allele that is linked to one mating type region. As a result, the identified mating type bias strongly promotes inbreeding, which we consider to be a potential speciation driver.