The pangenome of the wheat pathogen Pyrenophora tritici-repentis reveals novel transposons associated with necrotrophic effectors ToxA and ToxB

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Gourlie, Ryan
McDonald, Megan
Hafez, Mohamed
Ortega-Polo, Rodrigo
Low, Kristin E.
Abbott, D. W.
Strelkov, Stephen E.
Daayf, Fouad
Aboukhaddour, Reem
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Abstract Background In fungal plant pathogens, genome rearrangements followed by selection pressure for adaptive traits have facilitated the co-evolutionary arms race between hosts and their pathogens. Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (Ptr) has emerged recently as a foliar pathogen of wheat worldwide and its populations consist of isolates that vary in their ability to produce combinations of different necrotrophic effectors. These effectors play vital roles in disease development. Here, we sequenced the genomes of a global collection (40 isolates) of Ptr to gain insights into its gene content and genome rearrangements. Results A comparative genome analysis revealed an open pangenome, with an abundance of accessory genes (~ 57%) reflecting Ptr’s adaptability. A clear distinction between pathogenic and non-pathogenic genomes was observed in size, gene content, and phylogenetic relatedness. Chromosomal rearrangements and structural organization, specifically around effector coding genes, were detailed using long-read assemblies (PacBio RS II) generated in this work in addition to previously assembled genomes. We also discovered the involvement of large mobile elements associated with Ptr’s effectors: ToxA, the gene encoding for the necrosis effector, was found as a single copy within a 143-kb ‘Starship’ transposon (dubbed ‘Horizon’) with a clearly defined target site and target site duplications. ‘Horizon’ was located on different chromosomes in different isolates, indicating mobility, and the previously described ToxhAT transposon (responsible for horizontal transfer of ToxA) was nested within this newly identified Starship. Additionally, ToxB, the gene encoding the chlorosis effector, was clustered as three copies on a 294-kb element, which is likely a different putative ‘Starship’ (dubbed ‘Icarus’) in a ToxB-producing isolate. ToxB and its putative transposon were missing from the ToxB non-coding reference isolate, but the homolog toxb and ‘Icarus’ were both present in a different non-coding isolate. This suggests that ToxB may have been mobile at some point during the evolution of the Ptr genome which is contradictory to the current assumption of ToxB vertical inheritance. Finally, the genome architecture of Ptr was defined as ‘one-compartment’ based on calculated gene distances and evolutionary rates. Conclusions These findings together reflect on the highly plastic nature of the Ptr genome which has likely helped to drive its worldwide adaptation and has illuminated the involvement of giant transposons in facilitating the evolution of virulence in Ptr.
BMC Biology. 2022 Oct 24;20(1):239