Origin of pisatin demethylase (PDA) in the genus Fusarium

Nicholas A. Milani, Daniel P. Lawrence, A. Elizabeth Arnold, Hans D. Van Etten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Host specificity of plant pathogens can be dictated by genes that enable pathogens to circumvent host defenses. Upon recognition of a pathogen, plants initiate defense responses that can include the production of antimicrobial compounds such as phytoalexins. The pea pathogen Nectria haematococca mating population VI (MPVI) is a filamentous ascomycete that contains a cluster of genes known as the pea pathogenicity (PEP) cluster in which the pisatin demethylase (PDA) gene resides. The PDA gene product is responsible for the detoxification of the phytoalexin pisatin, which is produced by the pea plant (Pisum sativum L.). This detoxification activity allows the pathogen to evade the phytoalexin defense mechanism. It has been proposed that the evolution of PDA and the PEP cluster reflects horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Previous observations consistent with this hypothesis include the location of the PEP cluster and PDA gene on a dispensable portion of the genome (a supernumerary chromosome), a phylogenetically discontinuous distribution of the cluster among closely related species, and a bias in G. +. C content and codon usage compared to other regions of the genome. In this study we compared the phylogenetic history of PDA, beta-tubulin, and translation elongation factor 1-alpha in three closely related fungi (Nectria haematococca, Fusarium oxysporum, and Neocosmospora species) to formally evaluate hypotheses regarding the origin and evolution of PDA. Our results, coupled with previous work, robustly demonstrate discordance between the gene genealogy of PDA and the organismal phylogeny of these species, and illustrate how HGT of pathogenicity genes can contribute to the expansion of host specificity in plant-pathogenic fungi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-942
Number of pages10
JournalFungal Genetics and Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. pisi
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Nectria haematococca
  • PEP genes
  • Phylogenetics
  • Pisatin demethylase
  • Supernumerary chromosome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Genetics


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