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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Sequencing the genome of Marssonina brunnea reveals fungus-poplar co-evolution

Sheng Zhu1, You-Zhi Cao1, Cong Jiang1, Bi-Yue Tan1, Zhong Wang2, Sisi Feng2, Liang Zhang3, Xiao-Hua Su4, Brona Brejova5, Tomas Vinar5, Meng Xu1, Ming-Xiu Wang1, Shou-Gong Zhang4*, Min-Ren Huang1*, Rongling Wu12* and Yan Zhou36*

Author Affiliations

1 Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Poplar Germplasm Enhancement and Variety Improvement, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing, China

2 Center for Computational Biology, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing, China

3 Shanghai-MOST Key Laboratory of Health and Disease Genomics, Chinese National Human Genome Center at Shanghai, Shanghai, China

4 Research Institute of Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, China

5 Faculty of Mathematics, Physics, and Informatics, Comenius University, Mlynska Dolina, Bratislava, 84248, Slovakia

6 Department of Microbiology and Microbial Engineering, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:382  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-382

Published: 9 August 2012



The fungus Marssonina brunnea is a causal pathogen of Marssonina leaf spot that devastates poplar plantations by defoliating susceptible trees before normal fall leaf drop.


We sequence the genome of M. brunnea with a size of 52 Mb assembled into 89 scaffolds, representing the first sequenced Dermateaceae genome. By inoculating this fungus onto a poplar hybrid clone, we investigate how M. brunnea interacts and co-evolves with its host to colonize poplar leaves. While a handful of virulence genes in M. brunnea, mostly from the LysM family, are detected to up-regulate during infection, the poplar down-regulates its resistance genes, such as nucleotide binding site domains and leucine rich repeats, in response to infection. From 10,027 predicted proteins of M. brunnea in a comparison with those from poplar, we identify four poplar transferases that stimulate the host to resist M. brunnea. These transferas-encoding genes may have driven the co-evolution of M. brunnea and Populus during the process of infection and anti-infection.


Our results from the draft sequence of the M. brunnea genome provide evidence for genome-genome interactions that play an important role in poplar-pathogen co-evolution. This knowledge could help to design effective strategies for controlling Marssonina leaf spot in poplar.

Marssonina leaf spot; Genome sequencing; Host-pathogen interaction; Poplar