• Curvularia lunata (Wakker) Boed;
  • Host–pathogen interaction;
  • Plant proteomics;
  • Suppression subtractive hybridization;
  • Virulence variation

Curvularia lunata is an important pathogen causing Curvularia leaf spot in maize. Significant pathogenic variation has been found in C. lunata. To better understand the mechanism of this phenomenon, we consecutively put the selective pressures of resistant maize population on C. lunata strain WS18 (low virulence) artificially. As a result, the virulence of this strain was significantly enhanced. Using 2DE, 12 up-regulated and four down-regulated proteins were identified in virulence-increased strain compared to WS18. Our analysis revealed that melanin synthesis-related proteins (Brn1, Brn2, and scytalone dehydratase) and stress tolerance-related proteins (HSP 70) directly involved in the potential virulence growth as crucial markers or factors in C. lunata. To validate 2DE results and screen differential genes at mRNA level, we constructed a subtracted cDNA library (tester: virulence-increased strain; driver: WS18). A total of 188 unigenes were obtained this way, of which 14 were indicators for the evolution of pathogen virulence. Brn1 and hsp genes exhibited similar expression patterns corresponding to proteins detected by 2DE. Overall, our results indicated that differential proteins or genes, being involved with melanin synthesis or tolerance response to stress, could be considered as hallmarks of virulence increase in C. lunata.