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SUMMARY

Alternaria brassicicola is a necrotrophic fungal pathogen that causes black spot disease on members of the Brassicaceae plant family. In order to identify candidate fungal pathogenicity genes and characterize a compatible host response, a suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) cDNA library enriched for A. brassicicola and Brassica oleracea genes expressed during the interaction was created, along with a fungal cDNA library representing genes expressed during nitrogen starvation (NS). A total of 3749 and 2352 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were assembled into 2834 and 1264 unisequence sets for the SSH and NS libraries, respectively. We compared two methods to identify the origins (plant vs. fungal) of ESTs in the SSH library using different classification procedures, with and without the availability of a database representing the A. brassicicola whole genome sequence and Brassicaceae-specific genes. BLASTX analyses of the 2834 unisequence set using the GenBank non-redundant database identified 114 fungal genes. Further BLASTN analyses of the genes with unidentifiable origin using a database consisting of the 1264 fungal unisequence set from the nitrogen-starved library identified 94 additional fungal genes. By contrast, BLASTN analyses of the same SSH unisequence set using a partially assembled A. brassicicola whole genome draft sequence identified a total of 310 unisequenes of fungal origin. Our results indicated that even a small number of organism-specific EST sequences can be very helpful to identify pathogen genes in a library derived from infected tissue, partially overcoming the limitation of the public databases for little studied organisms. However, using the whole genome draft sequence of A. brassicicola we were able to identify approximately 30% more fungal genes in the SSH library than without utilizing this resource. The putative role of specific fungal and plant genes identified in this study in a compatible interaction is discussed.