Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 24594576
Biol Aujourdhui 2013;207(4):277-90
Phytopathogenic fungi are a major threat for global food security and show an extreme plasticity in pathogenicity behaviours. They often have a high adaptive potential allowing them to rapidly counteract the control methods used by men in agrosystems. In this paper, we evaluate the link between genome plasticity and adaptive potential using genomics and comparative genomics approaches. Our model is the evolutionary series Leptosphaeria maculans-Leptosphaeria biglobosa, encompassing five distinct entities, whose conspecificity or heterospecificity status is unclear, and which all are pathogens of cruciferous plants. They however differ by their host range and pathogenicity. Compared to other species of the species complex, the species best adapted to oilseed rape, L. maculans “brassicae”, causing important losses in the crop, has a genome that was submitted to a recent and massive burst of transposition by a few families of transposable elements (TEs). Whether the genome invasion contributed to speciation is still unclear to-date but there is a coincidence between this burst of TEs and divergence between two species. This TE burst contributed to diversification of effector proteins and thus to generation of novel pathogenic specificities. In addition, the location of effector genes within genome regions enriched in TEs has direct consequences on adaptation to plant resistance and favours a multiplicity of mutation events allowing “breakdown” of resistance. These data are substantiated by other examples in the literature showing that fungi tend to have a “two-speed” genome, in which a plastic compartment enriched in TE host genes is involved in pathogenicity and adaptation to host.