Scientific Reports 12(1) , 7832 ( 2022)
Profiling the host–mycobiota interactions in healthy vs. diseased forest ecosystems helps understand the dynamics of understudied yet increasingly important threats to forest health that are emerging due to climate change. We analyzed the structural and functional changes of the mycobiota and the responses of Pinus contorta in the Lophodermella needle cast pathosystem through metabarcoding and metatranscriptomics. When needles transitioned from asymptomatic to symptomatic, dysbiosis of the mycobiota occurred, but with an enrichment of Lophodermella pathogens. Many pathogenicity-related genes were highly expressed by the mycobiota at the necrotrophic phase, showing an active pathogen response that are absent in asymptomatic needles. This study also revealed that Lophodermella spp. are members of a healthy needle mycobiota that have latent lifestyles suggesting that other pine needle pathogens may have similar biology. Interestingly, Pinus contorta upregulated defense genes in healthy needles, indicating response to fungal recognition, while a variety of biotic and abiotic stresses genes were activated in diseased needles. Further investigation to elucidate the possible antagonistic interplay of other biotic members leading to disease progression and/or suppression is warranted. This study provides insights into microbial interactions in non-model pathosystems and contributes to the development of new forest management strategies against emerging latent pathogens.