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Cross-kingdom RNA communication during smut fungal infection by Thecaphora thlaspeos

Dr. Vera Göhre


Institut für Mikrobiologie

Universitätsstraße 1

40225 Düsseldorf

Tel.: +49 211 81-11529


Smut fungi are an important group of biotrophic pathogens from the Basidiomycetes that undergo an intimate interaction with their host plant during infection, and have a very narrow host range. Notably, the corn smut fungus U. maydis has been studied for years. It is genetically tractable and therefore it is an excellent model organism for fungal and infection biology. At the Institute for Microbiology of Michael Feldbrügge at the HHU Düsseldorf (project B3), I have established the Brassicaceae smut fungus Thecaphora thlaspeos as a novel tool to investigate smut fungal infection in model plants. T. thlaspeos contains the RNAi machinery, while U. maydis has specifically lost the genes. With A. thaliana as a host plant of this fungus, we now can investigate the role of cross-kingdom RNAi for smut fungal infection and compare it to U. maydis and to the other pathogens studied in the RU. To this end, in the frame of this RU, using the tools in the model plant A. thaliana, I want to (1) compile an inventory of fungal sRNAs from T. thlaspeos and their fungal or plant target genes, which would be the first inventory for smut fungi, (2) confirm the relevance of cross-kingdom RNAi for smut fungal infection, since so far only the effector proteins are functionally characterized, and (3) investigate the delivery of sRNAs from T. thlaspeos to its host plants via extracellular vesicles (EVs), which could be compared to effector protein translocation. Ultimately, in comparison to U. maydis (B3) as well as the other pathogens and symbionts studied in this RU, this will shed light onto Dicer-dependent and -independent cross-kingdom RNAi.