Dominant active Rac and dominant negative Rac revert the dominant active Ras phenotype in Colletotrichum trifolii by distinct signalling pathways


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The small G-protein superfamily is an evolutionarily conserved group of GTPases that regulate diverse signalling pathways including pathways for growth and development in eukaryotes. Previously, we showed that dominant active mutation in the unique Ras gene (DARas) of the fungal phytopathogen Colletotrichum trifolii displays a nutrient-dependent phenotype affecting polarity, growth and differentiation. Signalling via the MAP kinase pathway is significantly impaired in this mutant as well. Here we describe the cloning and functional characterization of Rac (Ct-Rac1), a member of the Rho family of G proteins. Ct-Rac1 expression is downregulated by DARas under limiting nutrition. Co-expression of DARas with dominant active Rac (DARac) stimulates MAPK activation and restores the wild-type phenotype. Inhibition of MAPK activation suppresses phenotypic restoration suggesting Rac-mediated MAPK activation is responsible for reversion to the wild-type phenotype. We also examined the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in these genetic backgrounds. The DARas mutant strain generates high levels of ROS as determined by DCFH-DA fluorescence. Co-expression with DNRac decreases ROS generation to wild-type levels and restores normal fungal growth and development. Pretreatment of DARas with antioxidants or a cytosolic phospholipase A2 inhibitor also restores the wild-type phenotype. These findings suggest that Ras-mediated ROS generation is dependent on a Rac–cPLA2-linked signalling pathway. Taken together, this study provides evidence that Rac functions to restore the hyphal morphology of DARas by regulating MAPK activation and intracellular ROS generation.