Vieira, A., Silva, D.N., Várzea, V., Paulo, O.S. & Batista, D. (2019) Genome-wide signatures of selection in Colletotrichum kahawae reveal candidate genes potentially involved in pathogenicity and aggressiveness.Frontiers in Microbiology, 10, 1374. DOI:10.3389/fmicb.2019.01374 (IF2019 4,235; Q1 Microbiology)
Plants and their pathogens are engaged in continuous evolutionary battles, with pathogens evolving to circumvent plant defense mechanisms and plants responding through enhanced protection to prevent or mitigate damage induced by pathogen attack. Managed ecosystems are composed of genetically identical populations of crop plants with few changes from year to year. These environments are highly conducive to the emergence and dissemination of pathogens and they exert selective pressure for both qualitative virulence factors responsible for fungal pathogenicity, and quantitative traits linked to pathogen fitness, such as aggressiveness. In this study, we used a comparative genome-wide approach to investigate the genomic basis underlying the pathogenicity and aggressiveness of the fungal coffee pathogen Colletotrichum kahawae infecting green coffee berries. The pathogenicity was investigated by comparing genomic variation between C. kahawae and its non-pathogenic sibling species, while the aggressiveness was studied by a genome-wide association approach with groups of isolates with different phenotypic profiles. High genetic differentiation was observed between C. kahawae and the most closely related species with 5,560 diagnostic SNPs identified, in which a significant enrichment of non-synonymous mutations was detected. Functional annotation of these non-synonymous mutations revealed a significant enrichment mainly in two gene ontology categories, “oxidation–reduction process” and “integral component of membrane.” Finally, the annotation of several genes potentially under-selection revealed that C. kahawae’s pathogenicity may be a complex biological process, in which important biological functions, such as, detoxification and transport, regulation of host and pathogen gene expression, and signaling are involved. On the other hand, the genome-wide association analyses for aggressiveness were able to identify 10 SNPs and 15 SNPs of small effect in single and multi-association analysis, respectively, from which 7 were common, giving in total 18 SNPs potentially associated. The annotation of these genomic regions allowed the identification of four candidate genes encoding F-box domain-containing, nitrosoguanidine resistance, Fungal specific transcription factor domain-containing and C6 transcription factor that could be associated with aggressiveness. This study shed light, for the first time, on the genetic mechanisms of C. kahawae host specialization.