• Alternaria alternata;
  • carboxamides;
  • oxidative stress;
  • pistachio;
  • ubiquinone-binding site


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References

The molecular basis of resistance to the fungicide boscalid in 25 Alternaria alternata field mutants exhibiting resistance to boscalid and previously tested negative for AaSDHB mutations conferring boscalid resistance was investigated by cloning and sequencing the A. alternata SDHC (AaSDHC) and SDHD (AaSDHD) genes from a boscalid-sensitive isolate. The SDHB and SDHC/SDHD genes encode the iron sulphur and two membrane-anchored subunits of succinate:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (SQR) that constitute the boscalid fungicide molecular targets. The deduced amino acid sequences exhibited low similarities with SDHC and SDHD peptides from other organisms, but residues essential to form the ubiquinone binding site or important in SQR assembly were particularly conserved. Sequence comparisons of the AaSDHC and AaSDHD genes between resistant mutants and wild-type isolates revealed that two highly conserved histidine residues implicated in the heme b ligation and located at codon 134 in AaSDHC (22 mutants) and codon 133 in AaSDHD (two mutants) were replaced by arginine residues (H134R and H133R). In another mutant, a substitution of an aspartate by a glutamic acid occurred at amino acid position 123 (D123E) in AaSDHD. Additional tests revealed that mycelial growth of boscalid-resistant isolates was reduced when isolates were subjected to oxidative stress. The identified mutations were confirmed using PCR-RFLP assays. This is apparently the first report of mutations located in the heme b ligands of the cytochrome II gene associated with carboxamide resistance.


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References

Alternaria late blight, caused by Alternaria spp. in the alternata, tenuissima and arborescens species groups (Pryor & Michailides, 2002), is one of the most common fungal diseases of pistachio. The disease can cause severe premature defoliation, staining of nutshells and moulding of the kernels, reducing fruit quality. On foliage, the disease is characterized by the development of large necrotic lesions that eventually coalesce and consume the entire leaf (Pryor & Michailides, 2002). Alternaria late blight is mainly managed via multiple fungicide sprays. However, the chemical management of this disease is continuously challenged by the emergence of resistant isolates among Alternaria spp. populations in California pistachio, particularly with site-specific fungicides. For instance, as a strategy to control the widespread resistance to quinone outside inhibitors (QoIs) among populations of Alternaria spp. of pistachio (Yong et al., 2007), the new active ingredient boscalid [2-chloro-N-(4’-chlorobiphenyl-2-yl)-nicotinamide)] was introduced in California pistachio orchards in 2003, in mixture with the QoI pyraclostrobin in the product Pristine® (BASF Corporation). Because of the activity of boscalid, Pristine® has performed very well in controlling alternaria late blight. However, reductions in its efficacy have been observed in some fields only 2 years after its registration and commercial use (Avenot & Michailides, 2007). These losses were associated with the development of A. alternata populations resistant to both fungicides in the mixture (Avenot et al., 2008b). In contrast with the resistance to the QoI pyraclostrobin which is a pervasive occurrence in pistachio orchards, the quick emergence of boscalid-resistant isolates is a new phenomenon that could affect the longevity of this new compound as a tool to combat alternaria late blight.

Boscalid shows a broad-spectrum fungal activity on various crops (Stammler et al., 2007); it belongs to the carboxamide class of fungicides, which are inhibitors of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) activity. SDH, also referred to as complex II or succinate:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (SQR), is a functional part of the Krebs cycle and the aerobic respiratory chain of mitochondria (Hägerhäll, 1997). This enzyme complex couples the oxidation of succinate to fumarate in the mitochondrial matrix (or cytoplasm in bacteria) with the reduction of ubiquinone (UQ) to ubiquinol (UQH2) in the membrane during aerobic respiration (Horsefield et al., 2006). The SDH complex is composed of a membrane-peripheral domain and a membrane-anchor domain. The peripheral domain, which consists of two hydrophilic subunits SDHA and SDHB, forms the soluble part of the complex and possesses the succinate dehydrogenase activity (oxidation of succinate to fumarate). SDHA is a flavoprotein (Fp) with a covalently bound flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), whereas SDHB is an iron-sulphur protein (Ip) containing three iron-sulphur clusters [2Fe-2S], [4Fe- 4S] and [3Fe-4S]. The membrane anchor domain is composed of two hydrophobic membrane-spanning subunits SDHC and SDHD that form the large and small subunits of cytochrome b. This latter integral membrane domain anchors the catalytic subunits (Fp and Ip) to the inner mitochondrial membrane and facilitates the transfer of electrons to ubiquinone (Ackrell et al., 1992; Hägerhäll & Hederstedt, 1996; Yankovskaya et al., 2003). The reduction of ubiquinone takes place in a specific UQ-binding site located within the membrane anchor subunits region and in close proximity to the [3Fe-4S] cluster and heme b. The UQ-binding site is highly conserved between bacteria and eukaryotes and is formed by residues from subunits B, C and D (Yankovskaya et al., 2003; Sun et al., 2005; Horsefield et al., 2006).

Carboxamide fungicides specifically interrupt the electron transport from the [3Fe-4S] cluster to ubiquinone by blocking the ubiquinone binding site (Horsefield et al., 2006; Stammler et al., 2007). In mutants of various fungi and bacteria, resistance to complex II inhibitors such as carboxin or flutolanil is reportedly conferred by a mutation in a highly conserved histidine residue located in the third cystein-rich cluster of the mitochondrial iron sulphur SDHB subunit (Broomfield & Hargreaves, 1992; Skinner et al., 1998; Honda et al., 2000; Matsson & Hederstedt, 2001). In the case of boscalid, field resistant mutants have been reported in Botrytis cinerea from grapes and strawberry (Stammler et al., 2007) and in Corynespora cassiicola isolates from cucumber (Miyamoto et al., 2009). In Botrytis cinerea, these isolates and mutants generated in the laboratory were found to bear mutations corresponding to the replacement of a Pro residue at position 225 by either Leu, Phe or Thr, and a His at position 272 by either Tyr or Arg in the SDHB subunit (Stammler et al., 2007). In a previous study to elucidate the mechanism of resistance to boscalid in A. alternata the iron sulphur gene AaSDHB from this fungus was targeted. Polymorphism analysis of the sequence of this gene between sensitive and resistant isolates showed that a conserved histidine residue at position 277 in the AaSDHB protein was mutated to either tyrosine (H277Y) or arginine (H277R) in some boscalid-resistant isolates (Avenot et al., 2008a). The histidine residue at amino acid position 277 in A. alternata corresponds to the histidine at position 272 in B. cinerea (Stammler et al., 2007), 267 in Mycosphaerella graminicola (Skinner et al., 1998), 257 in Ustilago maydis (Keon et al., 1991) and 229 in Xanthomonas campestris (Li et al., 2006). Interestingly, polymorphism analysis of the AaSDHB gene sequence from 23 A. alternata boscalid-resistant isolates did not reveal any difference relative to the wild type (Avenot et al., 2008a). This last observation suggests that other mutation(s) are likely to contribute to boscalid resistance outbreaks and is also in agreement with previous studies that demonstrated that carboxin resistance is reportedly conferred by mutations in the genes encoding the SDHC and SDHD subunits (Ito et al., 2004; Matsson et al., 1998).

In this study, the A. alternata SDHC (AaSDHC) and SDHD (AaSDHD) genes encoding the membrane-anchored subunits from a wild-type boscalid-sensitive isolate were cloned and their sequences compared with corresponding sequences from the undetermined boscalid-resistant mutants. In addition, since several studies also demonstrated that mutations in SDHC, SDHD and SDHB genes affecting the QP site in mutants of different organisms, correlated with hypersensitivity to hyperoxia or to oxidative stress (Ishii et al., 1990; Baysal et al., 2000; Szeto et al., 2007), the phenotypic characterization of the A. alternata boscalid-sensitive and -resistant mutants was supplemented by testing their sensitivity to oxidative stress. All the resistant isolates had a unique phenotype characterized by their sensitivity to paraquat. Finally, these results were considered in relation to the mode of action of boscalid and its interaction with the membrane-anchoring QP proteins in complex II.

Materials and methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References

Fungal isolates and fungicide media

All the A. alternata isolates used in this study (listed in Table 1) were isolated from pistachio leaves showing putative Alternaria infection collected during the pistachio growing seasons from 2005 to 2006 from different orchards with a history of Pristine® (boscalid + pyraclostrobin) sprays. Three additional isolates (Aa1or, Aa2or and Aa3or) isolated in 2007 were also included in the study. Sensitivity to boscalid was estimated by measuring radial mycelial growth on potato dextrose agar (PDA) media amended with several concentrations of the fungicide as described by Avenot et al. (2008b). Single-spore isolates were obtained according to the procedure described by Pryor & Michailides (2002) and maintained on PDA at 4°C until use. Fresh subcultures were made by transferring hyphal plugs to dishes of PDA medium.

Table 1.   Nucleotide mutations and deduced alterations in the membrane-anchored subunits AaSDHC and AaSDHD in Alternaria alternata boscalid-resistant isolates as compared to four wild-type isolates
IsolateEC50 boscalid (μg mL−1)Mutation
CodeOriginYearCodon (position)TypeLocation
AaY16Kern Co, CA20050·28CAC-AaSDHC
Aa4Kern Co, CA20050·26CAC-
Aa6Kern Co, CA20060·28CAC-AaSDHD
Aa61Kern Co, CA20060·45CAC-
Aa65Kern Co, CA2005>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa122Kern Co, CA2005>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
AaY1Kern Co, CA2005>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa2Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa26Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa51Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa44Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa41Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa13Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa48Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa3Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa68Kern Co, CA2005>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa40Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa10Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa37Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (133)H to RAaSDHD
Aa32Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (133)H to RAaSDHD
Aa47Kern Co, CA2006>100GAC to GAA (123)D to EAaSDHD
Aa54Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa19Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa94Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa102Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa103Kern Co, CA2006>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa1orTulare Co, CA2007>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa2orTulare Co, CA2007>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC
Aa3orTulare Co, CA2007>100CAC to CGC (134)H to RAaSDHC

Sensitivity to oxidative stress

Paraquat is an herbicide believed to induce oxidative stress through the generation of superoxide ions, either in the cytoplasm (Yanase et al., 2002) or in the mitochondria (Betarbet et al., 2002). The sensitivity to paraquat dichloride (commercial formulation of paraquat, a.i. 43·8%) (Syngenta Crop Protection Inc.) of A. alternata boscalid-sensitive isolates (eight isolates) and boscalid-resistant mutants carrying mutations in the AaSDHC (eight mutants) and AaSDHD (three mutants) subunits was tested in PDA media amended with 0, 1, 10 or 100 μg mL−1 a.i. paraquat. Six A. alternata boscalid-resistant mutants carrying H277Y and H277R in the AaSDHB subunit (Avenot et al., 2008a) were also included in this study. The mycelial growth of each isolate was measured after 7 days’ incubation of the cultures in the dark at 24°C; the effect of paraquat was then estimated by calculating the inhibition of radial mycelial growth relative to the untreated control. Two replicate plates were used per concentration for each isolate. Since the value from each replicate did not differ statistically (P > 0·05), the mean value was used for data analysis.

DNA procedures

Genomic DNA was extracted from mycelium of A. alternata using the FastDNA® kit (Qbiogene) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Primers used initially to amplify AaSDHC and AaSDHD (Table 2) were designed by aligning conserved sequences of the succinate dehydrogenase genes from A. brassicicola ( and Stagonospora nodorum (syn. Phaeosphaeria nodorum) genome sequences. These primers were used to amplify the putative AaSDHC and AaSDHD gene fragments from A. alternata genomic DNA from the boscalid-sensitive isolate AaY16. PCR reactions were performed in 50-μL volumes containing 50 ng DNA, 50 mm KCl, 1·5 mm MgCl2, 10 mm Tris-HCl (pH 9·0), 0·1% Triton X-100, dNTPs at 0·2 mm each (Promega), primers at 0·2 μm each and 1 U Pfu DNA polymerase (Stratagene). PCR was carried out in a Mastercycler® (Eppendorf®) with an initial pre-heat for 3 min at 95°C, followed by 40 cycles of denaturation at 94°C for 40 s, annealing at 51°C for 50 s and extension at 72°C for 1 min, and terminated with a final extension at 72°C for 10 min. PCR products were separated by electrophoresis in 1·2% agarose gel in Tris-acetate (TAE) buffer. The PCR products from each isolate were purified from the gel using the Geneclean® Kit (MP Biomedicals, LLC), cloned into a pGEM-T Easy vector (Promega) and subsequently sequenced. The 5′ and 3′ regions of AaSDHC and AaSDHD were obtained by PCR amplification using two sets of primers (Table 2) designed from both the obtained fragment and conserved sequence of corresponding regions in A. brassicicola homologous gene. PCR products were cloned and sequenced as described above.

Table 2.   Primer sets used for amplification of the AaSdhC and AaSdhD genes from Alternaria alternata genomic DNA
PrimerPrimer sequenceAmplified DNA fragment aPurpose
  1. aFragment numbering corresponds to nucleotide positions in the AaSDHC or AaSDHD gene, with the first nucleotide of the start codon considered as position +1.

SdhC F3CCAAATCACCTGGTACGCCTCG+284 to +623Cloning of AaSdhC
SdhD F1TAGGGCACCACCAACGAC+220 to +530Cloning of AaSdhD
SdhC SeqS1ATGGCTTCTCAGCGGGTATTTC+1 to +3625′ ORF sequencing of AaSdhC
SdhC SeqS2CCATCTACAAGCCCCAAATC+271 to +6253′ ORF sequencing of AaSdhC
SdhD SeqS1CATCCAAGTCGTTCCGATATT−20 to +4595′ ORF sequencing of AaSdhD
SdhD SeqS2AGATCATCGGAACCACCAAC+215 to +6363′ ORF sequencing of AaSdhD
SdhC-(A-G) R1TGGTTCTTGAAACCAATACCG+264 to +547SNP detection
SdhD(C-A) S1CCACTGGAGCTTCGAGAGGA+279 to +521SNP detection

PCR-RFLP assays

Portions of the AaSDHC and AaSDHD genes potentially carrying mutations were PCR-amplified using relevant primers (Table 2) and subsequently digested with different restriction enzymes (New England BioLabs Inc.) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Digestion products were then separated on 3% agarose gels in 1× TAE buffer.


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References

Characterization of field boscalid-resistant isolates of A. alternata

The sensitivity of the A. alternata isolates to boscalid was analysed by measuring radial growth on boscalid-amended media. Although a slight growth of wild-type isolates was observed at high doses of boscalid, the A. alternaria isolates were clearly distinguished as either sensitive or resistant to boscalid. Indeed, EC50 values exceeding 100 μg mL−1 were obtained for all the 25 tested isolates, which were classified as highly resistant to boscalid (Table 1). By contrast, the EC50 values of eight selected wild-type sensitive isolates were lower than 1 μg mL−1. Values for four representative sensitive isolates are shown in Table 1.

Cloning and sequence analysis of the AaSDHC and AaSDHD genes of succinate dehydrogenase from A. alternata

The complete open reading frame (ORF) sequence of AaSDHC and AaSDHD were obtained following the strategy described by Avenot et al. (2008a). Primer sets (Table 2) designed on the basis of conserved regions of SDHC and SDHD from A. brassicicola and S. nodorum were successfully used to amplify fragments from the genomic DNA of A. alternata AaY16, a boscalid-sensitive isolate. These fragments were cloned and sequenced. The resulting sequence was used to search the GenBank non-redundant database using the blastx algorithm. Significant matches were obtained with SDHC and SDHD orthologues from several filamentous fungi. The complete coding sequence of AaSDHC (accession no. FJ437067) and AaSDHD (accession no. FJ437068) were obtained by PCR amplification using primers designed both on the basis of the obtained DNA fragment and A. brassicicola SDHC and SDHD DNA sequences. The assembled DNA sequences of AaSDHC and AaSDHD contained ORFs coding for 177 and 193 amino acids, respectively, each interrupted by one putative intron. AaSDHC and AaSDHD were highly similar to the well-characterized succinate dehydrogenase cytochrome b560 subunits of phylogenetically close fungi such as Pyrenophora tritici repentis (85 and 87% identity, respectively), P. nodorum (67 and 79%) and Aspergillus fumigatus (59 and 64%). Conserved domain database (CDD) searching revealed the existence of the functional heme and quinone binding domains in the two proteins.

Polymorphism analysis of AaSDHC and AaSDHD sequences from boscalid-resistant and sensitive field isolates

To identify the mutation responsible for boscalid resistance, AaSDHC and AaSDHD DNA sequences from resistant isolates were compared with the corresponding gene of the sensitive isolates Aa4, Aa6 and AaY16. The complete nucleotide sequence of the AaSDHC and AaSDHD genes was determined for the 25 boscalid resistant isolates. Single nucleotide substitution was detected in AaSDHC sequence of 22 boscalid resistant isolates (Table 1). These isolates contained an A to G transition at position 490, resulting in the substitution of the conserved proximal heme-binding site His with Arg (H134R). Single nucleotide substitutions were also found in the AaSDHD sequences of three resistant isolates (Table 1). Isolates Aa32 and Aa37 contained an A to G transition at position 398 in AaSDHD, resulting, as in AaSDHC, in the substitution of the conserved proximal heme-binding site His with Arg (H133R). The AaSDHD sequence of isolate Aa47 isolate had a C to A mutation at position 369, resulting in the substitution of D with E (D123E). The exact alignment of AaSDHC and AaSDHD amino acid sequences, indicating the positions of mutations and the position of introns, is shown in Fig. 1. AaSDHC and AaSDHD sequences of boscalid-resistant isolates containing mutations in the iron-sulphur subunit AaSDHB (Avenot et al., 2008a) were also analysed and no polymorphism was detected in the 15 tested isolates. Six representative isolates are shown in Table 3.


Figure 1.  Genomic sequences of the AaSDHC (a) and AaSDHD (b) from boscalid-sensitive isolates of Alternaria alternata and the deduced amino acid sequences. Grey shading indicates locations of nucleotide substitutions and bold letters indicate the amino acid substitutions found in boscalid-resistant isolates.

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Table 3.   Effect of paraquat on the mycelial growth of Alternaria alternata boscalid-senstive (BS) and boscalid-resistant (BR) isolates with and without mutations in the SDH C, D and B subunits
IsolatePhenotypeGenotypeMycelial growth inhibition (%) in presence of paraquat (100 μg mL−1)
AaSDH B locusAaSDH C locusAaSDH D locus
Aa4BSWild-type (wt)Wild-type (wt)Wild-type (wt)10·58
Aa29BRH277Y (Avenot et al., 2008a)nonenone22·03
Aa33BRH277R (Avenot et al., 2008a)nonenone27·55

Single nucleotide polymorphism typing of boscalid-resistant isolates

The A to G transition in the AaSDHC sequence in some resistant isolates resulted in the creation of a new AciI restriction enzyme site. A specific primer (Table 2) was designed to amplify the mutation-containing fragment of AaSDHC that was subsequently digested with AciI. The PCR products from resistant isolates carrying the mutated sequence were digested into 210- and 90-bp fragments, whereas products from sensitive isolates and nine other mutants remained undigested (Fig. 2). The C to A transition in the AaSDHD sequence from isolate Aa47 generated a new1 XmnI site. A specific primer (Table 2) was used to amplify the mutation-containing fragments for all boscalid-resistant and -sensitive tested isolates. The PCR products were then treated using the mutation-specific enzyme. The PCR product from Aa47 carrying the mutated sequence was digested into 125- and 118-bp fragments, whereas products from sensitive isolates and other mutants remained undigested (Fig. 3). The A to G transition in the AaSDHD sequences in isolates Aa37 and Aa32 eliminated an XcmI site. A specific primer (Table 2) was used to amplify the mutation-containing fragments for all boscalid-resistant and -sensitive tested isolates. The PCR products were then treated using the mutation-specific enzyme. The PCR products from isolates Aa37 and Aa32 carrying the mutated sequence remained undigested, whereas products from sensitive isolates and other mutants were digested into 97- and 85-bp fragments (Fig. 4).


Figure 2.  RFLP analysis of AciI–digested 300-bp PCR products corresponding to the portion of the AaSDHC gene containing the A to G mutation. Amplification products were obtained using genomic DNA from AaSDHC mutants Aa65 (lane 1) and Aa122 (lane 3), sensitive isolate AaY16 (lane 2), AaSDHB-mutant Aa29 (lane 4) of Alternaria alternata. Lane M was loaded with a 100-bp DNA ladder (Invitrogen).

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Figure 3.  RFLP analysis of the XmnI–digested 243-bp PCR products corresponding to the portion of the AaSHD gene containing the C to A mutation. Amplification products were obtained using genomic DNA from Alternaria alternata: AaSDHD-mutants Aa37 (lane 2), Aa47 (lane 3) and Aa32 (lane 4); AaSDHC-mutants Aa122 (lane 5), Aa10 (lane 6), AaY1 (lane 7) and Aa65 (lane 10); sensitive isolates AaY16 (lane 11), Aa127 (lane 12) and Aa4 (lane 13); AaSDHB-mutants Aa29 (lane 14), Aa20 (lane 15) and Aa111 (lane 16). Lanes 1, 9 and 17 were loaded with a 100-bp DNA ladder (Invitrogen).

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Figure 4.  RFLP analysis of the XcmI–digested 183-bp PCR products corresponding to the portion of the AaSdhD gene containing the A to G mutation. Amplification products were obtained using genomic DNA from the Alternaria alternata: AaSDHD-mutants Aa37 (lane 2), Aa47 (lane 3), Aa32 (lane 4); AaSDHC-mutants Aa122 (lane 5), Aa10 (lane 6), AaY1 (lane 7) and Aa65 (lane 10); sensitive isolates AaY16 (lane 11), Aa127 (lane 12) and Aa4 (lane 13); AaSDHB-mutants Aa29 (lane 14), Aa20 (lane 15) and Aa111 (lane 16). Lanes 1, 9 and 17 were loaded with a 100-bp DNA ladder (Invitrogen).

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Sensitivity to oxidative stress

Mycelial growth of both boscalid-sensitive and -resistant isolates was not affected by low concentrations (1 and 10 μg mL−1) of paraquat (data not shown). However, on medium containing 100 μg mL−1 paraquat, the boscalid-sensitive isolates (Aa4, Aa6, Aa61, AaY16, Aa35, Aa62, Aa61 and Aa127) and boscalid-resistant isolates (Aa65, Aa26, Aa13, Aa10, AaY1, Aa54, Aa30, Aa122, Aa47, Aa37, Aa29, Aa20, Aa111, AA33, Aa58 and Aa45) displayed different degrees of oxidative sensitivity (Table 3). Indeed, the sensitive isolates were only slightly affected by oxidative stress, with inhibition ranging from 5·48 to 11·62%, whereas the growth of the resistant isolates was moderately inhibited (15·61–47·97%). The mean values obtained for the groups of SDHC mutants (27·72 ± 8·58) and SDHB and SDHD mutants (26·43 ± 8·93) were significantly higher (< 0·05, two-tailed t-test) than that obtained for the wild-type boscalid-sensitive isolates (8·94 ± 2·23).


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References

In the current study the AaSDHC and AaSDHD genes encoding the membrane anchored subunits of succinate dehydrogenase were cloned and sequenced. Low conservation of the deduced protein sequences of both AaSDHC and AaSDHD was observed when compared with SDHC and SDHD homologous proteins from model organisms, namely Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Escherichia coli. This finding was in agreement with other studies reporting a greater variation in the primary amino acid sequence of both cytochrome b subunits among species (Hägerhäll & Hederstedt, 1996; Baysal et al., 2001; Cecchini, 2003). In order to determine whether the presence of mutations in the AaSDHC and AaSDHD genes is associated with boscalid resistance in A. alternata boscalid-resistant mutants, the polymorphism of corresponding sequences from wild-type isolates and mutants characterized by the absence of mutations in the AaSDHB sequence (Avenot et al., 2008a) was then analysed. Two resistant isolate groups were identified based on the presence of point mutations affecting conserved amino acid residues in the AaSDHC and AaSDHD proteins, with these alterations potentially changing the boscalid binding site. Two distinct mutations in the AaSDHD gene corresponding to the replacement of a histidine by arginine (H133R) and an aspartate by a glutamic acid (D123E) were found, but in only three mutants. The mutated aspartate residue D123 in A. alternata is conserved in the human SDHD homologous protein and is equivalent to His-D92. In humans, mutation of this Asp92 residue to Tyr is related to hereditary paraganglioma (Baysal et al., 2002). This residue was suggested to play a role in the protonation of ubiquinone upon reduction (Yanase et al., 2002). In relation to carboxamide resistance, a mutation of an aspartate residue located at position 89 in the SDHD of Paracoccus denitrificans conferred resistance to carboxin (Matsson et al., 1998). Analysis of the AaSDHC gene revealed a unique mutation leading to the substitution of a highly conserved histidine residue by arginine (H134R). Curiously, several resistant isolates displayed this mutation. This result is in accordance with a previous published study involving the basidiomycete Coprinus cinereus, in which the replacement of an asparagine at position 80 in the SDHC subunit by a lysine residue resulted in resistance in mutants of this fungus to flutolanil and carboxin (Ito et al., 2004).

It should be noted that the two histidine residues substituted in the boscalid-resistant mutants of A. alternata, namely His-C134 and His-D123, correspond to the residues His-C84 and His-D71 in the membrane anchor of the E. coli SQR. These residues are conserved throughout complex II and function as the axial ligands for heme b556, which is known to be essential for the assembly and structural stability of the enzyme (Vibat et al., 1998; Maklashina et al., 2001). However, based on the E. coli SQR structure, heme b556 does not seem to be involved in the direct electron transfer pathway to ubiquinone (Nakamura et al., 1996; Vibat et al., 1998; Maklashina et al., 2001). In contrast with the mutations in SDHC and SDHD subunits reported to affect the sensitivity to other carboxamides fungicides in mutants of basidiomycetes species, the H134R and H133R mutations identified in AaSDHC and AaSDHD, respectively, appear unique, since they are located in the heme b ligands of the cytochrome II gene. This is apparently the first report of such mutations associated with carboxamide resistance.

In this study, in order to obtain additional insights regarding the mechanism of boscalid resistance, the phenotypic characterization of A. alternata boscalid resistant and -sensitive isolates was supplemented by studying their sensitivity to oxidative stress. The results obtained showed that the resistant isolates were more sensitive to oxidative stress than wild-type isolates. This effect was not entirely unexpected, as previous studies showed that mutants with SDH mutations in other organisms were hypersensitive to oxidative stress. For instance, in Caenorhabditis elegans, a mutation in the gene mev-1(kn1) homologue to AaSDHC conferred hypersensitivity to hyperoxia or to oxidative stress (Ishii et al., 1998). In S. cerevisiae, the R471K mutation in the SDH3 subunit gene rendered an isolate hypersensitive to paraquat, whereas the mutations D88E and D88N in SDH4 conferred mild sensitivity to this agent (Szeto et al., 2007). It is anticipated that the sensitivity of A. alternata boscalid-resistant mutants to oxidative stress might affect their ability to compete with wild-type isolates, at least in the absence of boscalid exposure.

The results from sequencing were consolidated into PCR-based assays. These results, combined with the fact that the A. alternata mutants were also sensitive to oxidative stress, as previously described in model organisms such as C. elegans or S. cerevisiae, are strong evidence of the correlation between phenotype (resistance to boscalid) and genotype (presence of mutations in SDH genes). However, the transformation of a wild-type isolate with the mutated AaSDHC and AaSDHD loci and restoration of the mutants will conclusively demonstrate the role of these mutations as the causes of boscalid resistance. Notably, the molecular diagnostic methods developed constitute sensitive tools for the rapid characterization of resistant isolates and will be useful in boscalid resistance monitoring studies in A. alternata, as well as for determining strategies for the use of new molecules, assuming that molecular tests can be made easily and simultaneously for all detected mutations.

It should be mentioned that the A. alternata SDHB mutants previously characterized (Avenot et al., 2008a) carried no mutations in the AaSDHC and AaSDHD subunits. It was previously demonstrated that the AaSDHC and AaSDHD mutants characterized in the present study had no mutations in AaSDHB (Avenot et al., 2008a). These findings indicate that each mutation found in one particular target-encoding gene can independently confer the resistance to boscalid. Stammler et al. (2007) also reported that field and laboratory mutants of B. cinerea isolated from grapes and strawberries with mutations within the homologous iron sulphur gene had no mutations in the SDHC and SDHD subunits. More recently, mutations in the three loci (SDH) B, C and D subunits in mutants of Aspergillus oryzae exhibiting resistance to carboxin were identified to be independently responsible for the resistance (Shima et al., 2009).

In summary, the data presented here imply that amino acid substitutions in the SDHC- and SDHD-type mutants might alter the conformation of residues that could directly interact with boscalid, and consequently decrease the affinity of SDH with boscalid or diminish the space needed for boscalid fungicide binding. In previous work it was shown that boscalid-resistant mutants displayed cross-resistance to carboxin, another fungicide in the carboxamide class. The different mutations in boscalid-SDH mutants and carboxin-SDH mutants suggest that the binding sites for carboxin and boscalid might slightly differ from each other.


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References

The authors thank David P. Morgan for technical assistance and for the collection of isolates from pistachio orchards. We also thank Dr G. Stammler (BASF Germany) for exchanging information with us.


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References
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