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Comparative Genomics of the Sigatoka Disease Complex on Banana Suggests a Link between Parallel Evolutionary Changes in Pseudocercospora fijiensis and Pseudocercospora eumusae and Increased Virulence on the Banana Host


The Sigatoka disease complex, caused by the closely-related Dothideomycete fungi Pseudocercospora musae (yellow sigatoka), Pseudocercospora eumusae (eumusae leaf spot), and Pseudocercospora fijiensis (black sigatoka), is currently the most devastating disease on banana worldwide. The three species emerged on bananas from a recent common ancestor and show clear differences in virulence, with P. eumusae and P. fijiensis considered the most aggressive. In order to understand the genomic modifications associated with shifts in the species virulence spectra after speciation, and to identify their pathogenic core that can be exploited in disease management programs, we have sequenced and analyzed the genomes of P. eumusae and P. musae and compared them with the available genome sequence of P. fijiensis. Comparative analysis of genome architectures revealed significant differences in genome size, mainly due to different rates of LTR retrotransposon proliferation. Still, gene counts remained relatively equal and in the range of other Dothideomycetes. Phylogenetic reconstruction based on a set of 46 conserved single-copy genes strongly supported an earlier evolutionary radiation of P. fijiensis from P. musae and P. eumusae. However, pairwise analyses of gene content indicated that the more virulent P. eumusae and P. fijiensis share complementary patterns of expansions and contractions in core gene families related to metabolism and enzymatic degradation of plant cell walls, suggesting that the evolution of virulence in these two pathogens has, to some extent, been facilitated by convergent changes in metabolic pathways associated with nutrient acquisition and assimilation. In spite of their common ancestry and shared host-specificity, the three species retain fairly dissimilar repertoires of effector proteins, suggesting that they likely evolved different strategies for manipulating the host immune system. Finally, 234 gene families, including seven putative effectors, were exclusively present in the three Sigatoka species, and could thus be related to adaptation to the banana host.

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