Jessica L. Soyer 1 , Mennat El Ghalid 1 , Nicolas Glaser 1 , Bénédicte Ollivier 1 , Juliette Linglin 1 , Jonathan Grandaubert 1 , Marie-Hélène Balesdent 1 , Lanelle R. Connolly 2 , Michael Freitag 2 , Thierry Rouxel 1 , Isabelle Fudal 1 , *
6 March 2014
Plant pathogens secrete an arsenal of small secreted proteins (SSPs) acting as effectors that modulate host immunity to facilitate infection. SSP-encoding genes are often located in particular genomic environments and show waves of concerted expression at diverse stages of plant infection. To date, little is known about the regulation of their expression. The genome of the Ascomycete Leptosphaeria maculans comprises alternating gene-rich GC-isochores and gene-poor AT-isochores. The AT-isochores harbor mosaics of transposable elements, encompassing one-third of the genome, and are enriched in putative effector genes that present similar expression patterns, namely no expression or low-level expression during axenic cultures compared to strong induction of expression during primary infection of oilseed rape ( Brassica napus). Here, we investigated the involvement of one specific histone modification, histone H3 lysine 9 methylation (H3K9me3), in epigenetic regulation of concerted effector gene expression in L. maculans. For this purpose, we silenced the expression of two key players in heterochromatin assembly and maintenance, HP1 and DIM-5 by RNAi. By using HP1-GFP as a heterochromatin marker, we observed that almost no chromatin condensation is visible in strains in which LmDIM5 was silenced by RNAi. By whole genome oligoarrays we observed overexpression of 369 or 390 genes, respectively, in the silenced- LmHP1 and - LmDIM5 transformants during growth in axenic culture, clearly favouring expression of SSP-encoding genes within AT-isochores. The ectopic integration of four effector genes in GC-isochores led to their overexpression during growth in axenic culture. These data strongly suggest that epigenetic control, mediated by HP1 and DIM-5, represses the expression of at least part of the effector genes located in AT-isochores during growth in axenic culture. Our hypothesis is that changes of lifestyle and a switch toward pathogenesis lift chromatin-mediated repression, allowing a rapid response to new environmental conditions.
Effectors are key players in pathogenicity of microbes toward plants. Effector genes usually show concerted expression during plant infection but how this concerted expression is generated remains a largely unexplored research topic. Epigenetic mechanisms are involved in genome maintenance and integrity but are increasingly considered as important for regulation of gene expression in numerous and diverse organisms. Here we show that the genomic environment has impact on expression of Leptosphaeria maculans effector genes, and that an epigenetic mechanism that relies on two proteins involved in heterochromatin formation and maintenance, HP1 and DIM-5, modulates this expression, leading to repression during growth in axenic culture. Chromatin decondensation by removal of histone H3 lysine 9 methylation and/or HP1 is presumably a prerequisite for effector gene expression during primary infection of oilseed rape. Thus we show chromatin-based transcriptional regulation that can act on effector gene expression in fungi. Our study highlights the importance of heterochromatic landscapes, not only for genome maintenance but also in rapid and efficient adaptation of organisms to changing environmental situations.