Open Access Research article

Transcriptome profiling of the rice blast fungus during invasive plant infection and in vitro stresses

Sandra M Mathioni1, André Beló1, Christopher J Rizzo2, Ralph A Dean3 and Nicole M Donofrio1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA

2 WuXi AppTec, Inc., Philadelphia, PA, USA

3 Department of Plant Pathology, Center for Integrated Fungal Research, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-49

Published: 19 January 2011



Rice blast is the most threatening disease to cultivated rice. Magnaporthe oryzae, its causal agent, is likely to encounter environmental challenges during invasive growth in its host plants that require shifts in gene expression to establish a compatible interaction. Here, we tested the hypothesis that gene expression patterns during in planta invasive growth are similar to in vitro stress conditions, such as nutrient limitation, temperature up shift and oxidative stress, and determined which condition most closely mimicked that of in planta invasive growth. Gene expression data were collected from these in vitro experiments and compared to fungal gene expression during the invasive growth phase at 72 hours post-inoculation in compatible interactions on two grass hosts, rice and barley.


We identified 4,973 genes that were differentially expressed in at least one of the in planta and in vitro stress conditions when compared to fungal mycelia grown in complete medium, which was used as reference. From those genes, 1,909 showed similar expression patterns between at least one of the in vitro stresses and rice and/or barley. Hierarchical clustering of these 1,909 genes showed three major clusters in which in planta conditions closely grouped with the nutrient starvation conditions. Out of these 1,909 genes, 55 genes and 129 genes were induced and repressed in all treatments, respectively. Functional categorization of the 55 induced genes revealed that most were either related to carbon metabolism, membrane proteins, or were involved in oxidoreduction reactions. The 129 repressed genes showed putative roles in vesicle trafficking, signal transduction, nitrogen metabolism, or molecular transport.


These findings suggest that M. oryzae is likely primarily coping with nutrient-limited environments at the invasive growth stage 72 hours post-inoculation, and not with oxidative or temperature stresses.