Ago1 Affects the Virulence of the Fungal Plant Pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici

In host-pathogen interactions RNA interference (RNAi) has emerged as a pivotal mechanism to modify both, the immune responses of the host as well as the pathogenicity and virulence of the pathogen. In addition, in some fungi RNAi is also known to affect chromosome biology via its effect on chromatin conformation. Previous studies reported no effect of the RNAi machinery on the virulence of the fungal plant pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici however the role of RNAi is still poorly understood in this species. Herein, we elucidate whether the RNAi machinery is conserved within the genus Zymoseptoria. Moreover, we conduct functional analyses of Argonaute and Dicer-like proteins and test if the RNAi machinery affects chromosome stability. We show that the RNAi machinery is conserved among closely related Zymoseptoria species while an exceptional pattern of allelic diversity was possibly caused by introgression. The deletion of Ago1 reduced the ability of the fungus to produce asexual propagules in planta in a quantitative matter. Chromosome stability of the accessory chromosome of Z. tritici was not prominently affected by the RNAi machinery. These results indicate, in contrast to previous finding, a role of the RNAi pathway during host infection, but not in the stability of accessory chromosomes in Z. tritici.


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