Date of Award

12-1-2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Agricultural Sciences

First Advisor

Fakhoury, Ahmad

Abstract

Fusarium virguliforme (Aoki, O’Donnell, Homma & Lattanzi), the causal agent of sudden death syndrome (SDS) of soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merrill), is responsible for major soybean yield losses in North America and South America. Despite the importance of SDS, few agronomic practices have been used to manage SDS successfully. Understanding the pathogen and the mechanisms it uses to cause disease is vital to devise effective disease control strategies. However, our knowledge of the pathogenicity mechanisms used by F. virguliforme is limited. The identification of pathogenic genes will shed light on the molecular basis of the interaction between F.virguliforme and soybean, which may ultimately lead to better management of SDS. Therefore, the studies presented in this thesis were aimed at identifying and characterizing candidate pathogenicity genes in F. virguliforme.To fulfill this objective, 40 candidate pathogenicity genes of F. virguliforme were identified based on a combined approach, which included hands-on literature and database mining, functional genomics as well as transcriptome analyses. From these genes, the FvSNF1gene (a sucrose non-fermenting protein kinase 1 ortholog), the Fvstr1 gene (a striatin protein ortholog) were functionally characterized through a gene knock-out strategy. Targeted disruption of the FvSNF1 locus in wild type F. virguliforme strain reduced virulence significantly on soybean and abolished galactose utilization. In addition, the FvΔSNF1 mutant displayed significant reduction in expression of several CWDEs genes and was defective in colonizing the vascular system of the roots. To identify putative target genes regulated by FvSNF1, transcriptome analyses were performed in the FvSNF1 deletion mutant and in the wild-type. Disruption of FvSNF1 affected the level of transcription of 393 genes and a majority of the genes were involved in carbohydrate metabolism, lignin degradation, and cellular signaling pathway. The disruption of Fvstr1, a striatin ortholog in F. virguliforme, resulted in a complete loss of virulence as well as impaired conidiation, conidiophore development and pigmentation in the fungus. The FvΔstr1 mutant also failed to colonize the vascular tissues of roots of inoculated soybean plants. The results suggest that FvSNF1and Fvstr1 have critical roles in pathogenicity. Another part of the study was to investigate the efficacy of ILeVO®, a succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor fungicide from Bayer CropScience, against F. virguliforme. Our results showed that ILeVO® was very active against F. virguliforme in vitro and was very effective in minimizing F. virguliforme infection thus providing yet another tool to combat SDS.

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