The Ascomycete fungus Phaeoacremonium minimum is one of the primary causal agents of Esca, a widespread and damaging grapevine trunk disease. Variation in virulence among Pm. minimum isolates has been reported, but the underlying genetic basis of the phenotypic variability remains unknown. The goal of this study was to characterize intraspecific genetic diversity and explore its potential impact on virulence functions associated with secondary metabolism, cellular transport, and cell wall decomposition. We generated a chromosome-scale genome assembly, using single molecule real-time sequencing, and resequenced the genomes and transcriptomes of multiple isolates to identify sequence and structural polymorphisms. Numerous insertion and deletion events were found for a total of about 1 Mbp in each isolate. Structural variation in this extremely gene dense genome frequently caused presence/absence polymorphisms of multiple adjacent genes, mostly belonging to biosynthetic clusters associated with secondary metabolism. Because of the observed intraspecific diversity in gene content due to structural variation we concluded that a transcriptome reference developed from a single isolate is insufficient to represent the virulence factor repertoire of the species. We therefore compiled a pan-transcriptome reference of Pm. minimum comprising a non-redundant set of 15,245 protein-coding sequences. Using naturally infected field samples expressing Esca symptoms, we demonstrated that mapping of meta-transcriptomics data on a multi-species reference that included the Pm. minimum pan-transcriptome allows the profiling of an expanded set of virulence factors, including variable genes associated with secondary metabolism and cellular transport.
Journal: Frontiers in microbiology