Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 25(4) , 443-452 (Apr 2012)
Alternaria brassicicola is a successful saprophyte and necrotrophic plant pathogen with a broad host range within the family Brassicaceae. It produces secondary metabolites that marginally affect virulence. Cell wall-degrading enzymes (CDWE) have been considered important for pathogenesis but none of them individually have been identified as significant virulence factors in A. brassicicola. In this study, knockout mutants of a gene, AbVf19, were created and produced considerably smaller lesions than the wild type on inoculated host plants. The presence of tandem zinc-finger domains in the predicted amino acid sequence and nuclear localization of AbVf19-reporter protein suggested that it was a transcription factor. Gene expression comparisons using RNA-seq identified 74 genes being downregulated in the mutant during a late stage of infection. Among the 74 downregulated genes, 28 were putative CWDE genes. These were hydrolytic enzyme genes that composed a small fraction of genes within each family of cellulases, pectinases, cutinases, and proteinases. The mutants grew slower than the wild type on an axenic medium with pectin as a major carbon source. This study demonstrated the existence and the importance of a transcription factor that regulates a suite of genes that are important for decomposing and utilizing plant material during the late stage of plant infection.