A gene co-expression network (GEN) was generated using a dual RNA-seq study with the fungal pathogen Aspergillus flavus and its plant host Zea mays during the initial 3 days of infection. The analysis deciphered novel pathways and mapped genes of interest in both organisms during the infection. This network revealed a high degree of connectivity in many of the previously recognized pathways in Z. mays such as jasmonic acid, ethylene, and reactive oxygen species (ROS). For the pathogen A. flavus, a link between aflatoxin production and vesicular transport was identified within the network. There was significant interspecies correlation of expression between Z. mays and A. flavus for a subset of 104 Z. mays, and 1942 A. flavus genes. This resulted in an interspecies subnetwork enriched in multiple Z. mays genes involved in the production of ROS. In addition to the ROS from Z. mays, there was enrichment in the vesicular transport pathways and the aflatoxin pathway for A. flavus. Included in these genes, a key aflatoxin cluster regulator, AflS, was found to be co-regulated with multiple Z. mays ROS producing genes within the network, suggesting AflS may be monitoring host ROS levels. The entire GEN for both host and pathogen, and the subset of interspecies correlations, is presented as a tool for hypothesis generation and discovery for events in the early stages of fungal infection of Z. mays by A. flavus.
Musungu, Bryan M., Bhatnagar, Deepak, Brown, Robert L., Payne, Gary A., OBrian, Greg, Fakhoury, Ahmad M. and Geisler, Matt. "A Network Approach of Gene Co-expression in the Zea mays/Aspergillus flavus Pathosystem to Map Host/Pathogen Interaction Pathways.." Froniers in Genetics 7 (Fall 2016). doi:10.3389/fgene.2016.00206.