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EFFECTOMICS Report Summary

Project ID: 335691
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Austria

Mid-Term Report Summary - EFFECTOMICS (EFFECTOMICS- elucidating the toolbox of biotrophic pathogens)

Biotrophic plant pathogenic fungi employ small secreted molecules, so called effectors, in order to suppress the immune responses of their host plants and to reshape their metabolism and development in favor of the invader. As a consequence, putative effector proteins are generated by one organism (invader) but are meant to act on the other organism (host). Effector proteins of plant pathogens are therefore potentially valuable tools to study and manipulate cellular processes in plants. One of the research challenges is that effector proteins are poorly conserved at the sequence level and contain barely any functionally characterized domains that might hint towards their potential function. The corn smut fungus Ustilago maydis has become a fantastic model to study plant pathogen interactions, as it is a fully genetically accessible pathogen. The goal of the EFFECTOMICS project is to study the protein effectome of U. maydis in a systematic way, allowing us to elucidate the functions of the individual effectors and exploit them to study plant specific pathways and to learn how the pathogen utilizes them to promote infection. The aim being to identify new targets for crop protection, to obtain new tools to manipulate plant pathways, and to use effectors as probes that target important nodes in plant metabolic pathways. For this, several hundred putative effectors of U. maydis have been cloned and tested for putative functions in high throughput screens. These screens are performed in heterologous systems for practical reasons. In order to study effector functions on the plant side, we developed a molecular toolset for a related grass/fungal pathosystem (Brachypodium sp. / U. bromivora) which is completely genetically accessible on the pathogen as well as on the host side. The genomes of this new temperate grass/fungal pathosystem have been sequenced and carefully annotated, transformation protocols and accompanying vectors for both the host and the pathogen have been established, and infection protocols have also been developed.

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