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Hemibiotrophic fungal pathogen induces systemic susceptibility and systemic shifts in wheat metabolome and microbiome composition

By Heike Seybold, Tobias Demetrowitsch, M. Amine Hassani, Silke Szymczak, Ekaterina Reim, Janine Haueisen, Malte Christoph Ruehlemann, Andre Franke, Karin Schwarz, Eva H Stukenbrock

Posted 14 Jul 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/702373

Yield losses caused by fungal pathogens represent a major threat to global food production. One of the most devastating fungal wheat pathogens is Zymoseptoria tritici. Despite the importance of this fungus and wheat as main staple food crop the underlying mechanisms of plant-pathogen interactions are poorly understood. Here we present a conceptual framework based on coinfection assays, comparative metabolomics, and microbiome profiling to study the interaction of Z. tritici in susceptible and resistant wheat. We demonstrate that Z. tritici suppresses the production of immune-related metabolites in a susceptible cultivar. Remarkably, this fungus-induced immune suppression spreads within the leaf and even to other leaves, a previously undescribed phenomenon that we term "systemic induced susceptibility". Using a comparative metabolomics approach, we identified defense-related biosynthetic pathways that are suppressed and induced in susceptible and resistant cultivars, respectively. We show that these fungus-induced changes also dramatically affect the wheat leaf microbiome. Our findings emphasize that immune suppression by this hemibiotrophic pathogen impacts specialized plant metabolism, alters its associated microbial communities, and renders wheat vulnerable to further infections.

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