Genomic tillage and the harvest of fungal phytopathogens


  • Richard Oliver

    Corresponding author
    • Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens, Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University, Bentley, WA, Australia
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Richard Oliver

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II. Magnaporthe oryzae 1016
III. Stagonospora nodorum 1017
IV. Fusarium graminearum 1018
V.Fusarium solani, Fusarium oxysporum and Fusarium verticilioides1018
VI. Mycosphaerella graminicola 1019
VII. Leptosphaeria maculans 1019
VIII. Blumeria graminis 1019
IX.Genomic tillage and the crop of effectors1020
X.Research priorities1020


Genome sequencing has been carried out on a small selection of major fungal ascomycete pathogens. These studies show that simple models whereby pathogens evolved from phylogenetically related saprobes by the acquisition or modification of a small number of key genes cannot be sustained.The genomes show that pathogens cannot be divided into three clearly delineated classes (biotrophs, hemibiotrophs and necrotrophs) but rather into a complex matrix of categories each with subtly different properties. It is clear that the evolution of pathogenicity is ancient, rapid and ongoing. Fungal pathogens have undergone substantial genomic rearrangements that can be appropriately described as ‘genomic tillage’. Genomic tillage underpins the evolution and expression of large families of genes – known as effectors – that manipulate and exploit metabolic and defence processes of plants so as to allow the proliferation of pathogens.