April 21, 2020  |  

A whole genome scan of SNP data suggests a lack of abundant hard selective sweeps in the genome of the broad host range plant pathogenic fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.

The pathogenic fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum infects over 600 species of plant. It is present in numerous environments throughout the world and causes significant damage to many agricultural crops. Fragmentation and lack of gene flow between populations may lead to population sub-structure. Within discrete recombining populations, positive selection may lead to a ‘selective sweep’. This is characterised by an increase in frequency of a favourable allele leading to reduction in genotypic diversity in a localised genomic region due to the phenomenon of genetic hitchhiking. We aimed to assess whether isolates of S. sclerotiorum from around the world formed genotypic clusters associated with geographical origin and to determine whether signatures of population-specific positive selection could be detected. To do this, we sequenced the genomes of 25 isolates of S. sclerotiorum collected from four different continents-Australia, Africa (north and south), Europe and North America (Canada and the northen United States) and conducted SNP based analyses of population structure and selective sweeps. Among the 25 isolates, there was evidence for two major population clusters. One of these consisted of 11 isolates from Canada, the USA and France (population 1), and the other consisted of nine isolates from Australia and one from Morocco (population 2). The rest of the isolates were genotypic outliers. We found that there was evidence of outcrossing in these two populations based on linkage disequilibrium decay. However, only a single candidate selective sweep was observed, and it was present in population 2. This sweep was close to a Major Facilitator Superfamily transporter gene, and we speculate that this gene may have a role in nutrient uptake from the host. The low abundance of selective sweeps in the S. sclerotiorum genome contrasts the numerous examples in the genomes of other fungal pathogens. This may be a result of its slow rate of evolution and low effective recombination rate due to self-fertilisation and vegetative reproduction.

April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic Survey of Bordetella pertussis Diversity, United States, 2000-2013.

We characterized 170 complete genome assemblies from clinical Bordetella pertussis isolates representing geographic and temporal diversity in the United States. These data capture genotypic shifts, including increased pertactin deficiency, occurring amid the current pertussis disease resurgence and provide a foundation for needed research to direct future public health control strategies.

April 21, 2020  |  

Highly flexible infection programs in a specialized wheat pathogen.

Many filamentous plant pathogens exhibit high levels of genomic variability, yet the impact of this variation on host-pathogen interactions is largely unknown. We have addressed host specialization in the wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici. Our study builds on comparative analyses of infection and gene expression phenotypes of three isolates and reveals the extent to which genomic variation translates into phenotypic variation. The isolates exhibit genetic and genomic variation but are similarly virulent. By combining confocal microscopy, disease monitoring, staining of ROS, and comparative transcriptome analyses, we conducted a detailed comparison of the infection processes of these isolates in a susceptible wheat cultivar. We characterized four core infection stages: establishment, biotrophic growth, lifestyle transition, and necrotrophic growth and asexual reproduction that are shared by the three isolates. However, we demonstrate differentiated temporal and spatial infection development and significant differences in the expression profiles of the three isolates during the infection stages. More than 20% of the genes were differentially expressed and these genes were located significantly closer to transposable elements, suggesting an impact of epigenetic regulation. Further, differentially expressed genes were enriched in effector candidates suggesting that isolate-specific strategies for manipulating host defenses are present in Z. tritici. We demonstrate that individuals of a host-specialized pathogen have highly differentiated infection programs characterized by flexible infection development and functional redundancy. This illustrates how high genetic diversity in pathogen populations results in highly differentiated infection phenotypes, which fact needs to be acknowledged to understand host-pathogen interactions and pathogen evolution.

April 21, 2020  |  

Complete Genome Sequence of Sequevar 14M Ralstonia solanacearum Strain HA4-1 Reveals Novel Type III Effectors Acquired Through Horizontal Gene Transfer.

Ralstonia solanacearum, which causes bacterial wilt in a broad range of plants, is considered a “species complex” due to its significant genetic diversity. Recently, we have isolated a new R. solanacearum strain HA4-1 from Hong’an county in Hubei province of China and identified it being phylotype I, sequevar 14M (phylotype I-14M). Interestingly, we found that it can cause various disease symptoms among different potato genotypes and display different pathogenic behavior compared to a phylogenetically related strain, GMI1000. To dissect the pathogenic mechanisms of HA4-1, we sequenced its whole genome by combined sequencing technologies including Illumina HiSeq2000, PacBio RS II, and BAC-end sequencing. Genome assembly results revealed the presence of a conventional chromosome, a megaplasmid as well as a 143 kb plasmid in HA4-1. Comparative genome analysis between HA4-1 and GMI1000 shows high conservation of the general virulence factors such as secretion systems, motility, exopolysaccharides (EPS), and key regulatory factors, but significant variation in the repertoire and structure of type III effectors, which could be the determinants of their differential pathogenesis in certain potato species or genotypes. We have identified two novel type III effectors that were probably acquired through horizontal gene transfer (HGT). These novel R. solanacearum effectors display homology to several YopJ and XopAC family members. We named them as RipBR and RipBS. Notably, the copy of RipBR on the plasmid is a pseudogene, while the other on the megaplasmid is normal. For RipBS, there are three copies located in the megaplasmid and plasmid, respectively. Our results have not only enriched the genome information on R. solanacearum species complex by sequencing the first sequevar 14M strain and the largest plasmid reported in R. solanacearum to date but also revealed the variation in the repertoire of type III effectors. This will greatly contribute to the future studies on the pathogenic evolution, host adaptation, and interaction between R. solanacearum and potato.

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