Extracellular enzymes play an important role in the pathogenicity and virulence of phytopathogenic fungi. Several isolates of Colletotrichum coccodes, causal agent of anthracnose on tomato, were screened to determine the relationship between protease activity and virulence. A direct relationship was observed between extracellular protease activity and the induction of disease symptoms of fruit and mortality in plants. Isolate Cc155 exhibited the highest protease activity after five days of growth in protease induction medium and produced an extracellular serine protease (sp78) that was 78 kDa, auto-degradative, glucose repressible, and non-glycosylated. To determine the role of sp78 in pathogenicity, a uv-induced extracellular protease deficient mutant (np155) was generated from the wildtype isolate Cc155. Np155 maintained growth rates comparable to Cc155 and produced wildtype levels of extracellular cellulase but did not produce extracellular protease. Unlike Cc155, np155 caused no disease symptoms on tomato fruit and 0% mortality on tomato seedlings. These results suggest that extracellular protease activity is required for pathogenicity and virulence of C. coccodes, and that the elimination of protease activity transforms a virulent pathogen to a non-pathogenic endophyte.
Additional publication details
Characterization and isolation of an extracellular serine protease from the tomato pathogen Colletotrichum coccodes, and it's role in pathogenicity