Rust fungi (Pucciniales) are among the most important pathogens of many plants and trees of agricultural and ecological importance including DOE JGI Plant Flagship Genomes such as soybean, sorghum and poplar. The fungi are also known to have the most complex lifecycles among fungi. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that control interactions between plants and rust fungi is essential to fend off rust diseases in plantations. However, as rust fungi cannot be grown outside living host tissues, it is difficult to conduct molecular studies such as those applied in model pathosystems. Rust fungi, however, can produce amazingly large amounts of asexual spores that can be used for genome sequencing. In a previous project, the genome of the poplar rust fungus Melampsora larici-populina was sequenced. The comparative analysis with the wheat rust fungus Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici revealed major singularities for rust fungi such as very large genomes; large contents in repeats and transposable elements; a large number of genes, of which more than half have no known homologs in fungi out of the Pucciniales. In this follow-up project, researchers focus on deciphering the molecular bases of virulence and at understanding host adaptation in the poplar rust fungus. They expect this project to help generate a stronger basis for comparative analyses with other biotrophic fungi of poplar currently being investigated.
Proposer’s Name: Sébastien Duplessis