Supernumerary mini-chromosomes–a unique type of genomic structural variation–have been implicated in the emergence of virulence traits in plant pathogenic fungi. However, the mechanisms that facilitate the emergence and maintenance of mini-chromosomes across fungi remain poorly understood. In the blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, mini-chromosomes have been first described in the early 1990s but, until very recently, have been overlooked in genomic studies. Here we investigated structural variation in four isolates of the blast fungus M. oryzae from different grass hosts and analyzed the sequences of mini-chromosomes in the rice, foxtail millet and goosegrass isolates. The mini-chromosomes of these isolates turned out to be highly diverse with distinct sequence composition. They are enriched in repetitive elements and have lower gene density than core-chromosomes. We identified several virulence-related genes in the mini-chromosome of the rice isolate, including the polyketide synthase Ace1 and the effector gene AVR-Pik. Macrosynteny analyses around these loci revealed structural rearrangements, including inter-chromosomal translocations between core- and mini-chromosomes. Our findings provide evidence that mini-chromosomes independently emerge from structural rearrangements of core-chromosomes and might contribute to adaptive evolution of the blast fungus.
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