The heterotrimeric G-protein pathway is a ubiquitous eukaryotic signalling module that is known to regulate growth and differentiation in many plant pathogens. We previously identified Pigpa1, a gene encoding a G-protein alpha subunit from the potato late blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans. P. infestans belongs to the class oomycetes, a group of organisms in which signal transduction processes have not yet been studied at the molecular level. To elucidate the function of Pigpa1, PiGPA1-deficient mutants were obtained by homology-dependent gene silencing. The Pigpa1-silenced mutants produced zoospores that turned six to eight times more frequently, causing them to swim only short distances compared with wild type. Attraction to the surface, a phenomenon known as negative geotaxis, was impaired in the mutant zoospores, as well as autoaggregation and chemotaxis towards glutamic and aspartic acid. Zoospore production was reduced by 20-45% in different Pigpa1-silenced mutants. Transformants expressing constitutively active forms of PiGPA1, containing amino acid substitutions (R177H and Q203L), showed no obvious phenotypic differences from the wild-type strain. Infection efficiencies on potato leaves ranged from 3% to 14% in the Pigpa1-silenced mutants, compared with 77% in wild type, showing that virulence is severely impaired. The results prove that PiGPA1 is crucial for zoospore motility and for pathogenicity in an important oomycete plant pathogen.
- heterotrimeric G-proteins
- fungus phytophthora