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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The goals of the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology are to conduct research on the basic biology of plant pathogens and microbes, to develop methods for the management of microbial diseases of plants and other organisms, to provide a quality education to our students; and be a repository of expert advice on plant diseases and microbiology to the citizens of California and the world.

Our department has its roots in the Citrus Experiment Station, which was established in Riverside in 1905. Our department is also the basis of the International Organization of Citrus Virologists (IOCV). IOCV was formed during the first international conference on citrus virus diseases held at Riverside in 1957. Although the department has maintained strength in the study of diseases of citrus, the scope has expanded to include concentrations in numerous other plant diseases as well as many sub-disciplines of microbiology. Represented among our faculty are experts in the fields of genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, ecology, evolutionary biology, and traditional aspects of disease control. Many faculty members have close interactions with industry representatives, advisors, and policy makers throughout California and worldwide. This is critical to applied research for identifying emerging and common plant diseases and microbes, and developing innovative management programs based on ecological and epidemiological approaches.

We invite you to explore the research programs of our world-class faculty, our critical work in cooperative extension, and the graduate and undergraduate programs that we sponsor.

Threats Posed by the Fungal Kingdom to Humans, Wildlife, and Agriculture.

(2020)

The fungal kingdom includes at least 6 million eukaryotic species and is remarkable with respect to its profound impact on global health, biodiversity, ecology, agriculture, manufacturing, and biomedical research. Approximately 625 fungal species have been reported to infect vertebrates, 200 of which can be human associated, either as commensals and members of our microbiome or as pathogens that cause infectious diseases. These organisms pose a growing threat to human health with the global increase in the incidence of invasive fungal infections, prevalence of fungal allergy, and the evolution of fungal pathogens resistant to some or all current classes of antifungals. More broadly, there has been an unprecedented and worldwide emergence of fungal pathogens affecting animal and plant biodiversity. Approximately 8,000 species of fungi and Oomycetes are associated with plant disease. Indeed, across agriculture, such fungal diseases of plants include new devastating epidemics of trees and jeopardize food security worldwide by causing epidemics in staple and commodity crops that feed billions. Further, ingestion of mycotoxins contributes to ill health and causes cancer. Coordinated international research efforts, enhanced technology translation, and greater policy outreach by scientists are needed to more fully understand the biology and drivers that underlie the emergence of fungal diseases and to mitigate against their impacts. Here, we focus on poignant examples of emerging fungal threats in each of three areas: human health, wildlife biodiversity, and food security.

Cover page of Genome-wide analyses of Liberibacter species provides insights into evolution, phylogenetic relationships, and virulence factors.

Genome-wide analyses of Liberibacter species provides insights into evolution, phylogenetic relationships, and virulence factors.

(2020)

'Candidatus Liberibacter' species are insect-transmitted, phloem-limited α-Proteobacteria in the order of Rhizobiales. The citrus industry is facing significant challenges due to huanglongbing, associated with infection from 'Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus' (Las). In order to gain greater insight into 'Ca. Liberibacter' biology and genetic diversity, we have performed genome sequencing and comparative analyses of diverse 'Ca. Liberibacter' species, including those that can infect citrus. Our phylogenetic analysis differentiates 'Ca. Liberibacter' species and Rhizobiales in separate clades and suggests stepwise evolution from a common ancestor splitting first into nonpathogenic Liberibacter crescens followed by diversification of pathogenic 'Ca. Liberibacter' species. Further analysis of Las genomes from different geographical locations revealed diversity among isolates from the United States. Our phylogenetic study also indicates multiple Las introduction events in California and spread of the pathogen from Florida to Texas. Texan Las isolates were closely related, while Florida and Asian isolates exhibited the most genetic variation. We have identified conserved Sec translocon (SEC)-dependent effectors likely involved in bacterial survival and virulence of Las and analysed their expression in their plant host (citrus) and insect vector (Diaphorina citri). Individual SEC-dependent effectors exhibited differential expression patterns between host and vector, indicating that Las uses its effector repertoire to differentially modulate diverse organisms. Collectively, this work provides insights into the evolution of 'Ca. Liberibacter' species, the introduction of Las in the United States and identifies promising Las targets for disease management.

Cover page of Genome organization and interaction with capsid protein in a multipartite RNA virus.

Genome organization and interaction with capsid protein in a multipartite RNA virus.

(2020)

We report the asymmetric reconstruction of the single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) content in one of the three otherwise identical virions of a multipartite RNA virus, brome mosaic virus (BMV). We exploit a sample consisting exclusively of particles with the same RNA content-specifically, RNAs 3 and 4-assembled in planta by agrobacterium-mediated transient expression. We find that the interior of the particle is nearly empty, with most of the RNA genome situated at the capsid shell. However, this density is disordered in the sense that the RNA is not associated with any particular structure but rather, with an ensemble of secondary/tertiary structures that interact with the capsid protein. Our results illustrate a fundamental difference between the ssRNA organization in the multipartite BMV viral capsid and the monopartite bacteriophages MS2 and Qβ for which a dominant RNA conformation is found inside the assembled viral capsids, with RNA density conserved even at the center of the particle. This can be understood in the context of the differing demands on their respective lifecycles: BMV must package separately each of several different RNA molecules and has been shown to replicate and package them in isolated, membrane-bound, cytoplasmic complexes, whereas the bacteriophages exploit sequence-specific "packaging signals" throughout the viral RNA to package their monopartite genomes.

Cover page of Phylogenomic analyses of non-Dikarya fungi supports horizontal gene transfer driving diversification of secondary metabolism in the amphibian gastrointestinal symbiont, Basidiobolus

Phylogenomic analyses of non-Dikarya fungi supports horizontal gene transfer driving diversification of secondary metabolism in the amphibian gastrointestinal symbiont, Basidiobolus

(2020)

Research into secondary metabolism (SM) production by fungi has resulted in the discovery of diverse, biologically active compounds with significant medicinal applications. However, the fungi rich in SM production are taxonomically restricted to Dikarya, two phyla of Kingdom Fungi, Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Here, we explore the potential for SM production in Mucoromycota and Zoopagomycota, two phyla of nonflagellated fungi that are not members of Dikarya, by predicting and identifying core genes and gene clusters involved in SM. The majority of non-Dikarya have few genes and gene clusters involved in SM production except for the amphibian gut symbionts in the genus Basidiobolus . Basidiobolus genomes exhibit an enrichment of SM genes involved in siderophore, surfactin-like, and terpene cyclase production, all these with evidence of constitutive gene expression. Gene expression and chemical assays confirm that Basidiobolus has significant siderophore activity. The expansion of SMs in Basidiobolus are partially due to horizontal gene transfer from bacteria, likely as a consequence of its ecology as an amphibian gut endosymbiont.

Cover page of Draft Genome Sequence of the Yeast Rhodotorula sp. Strain CCFEE 5036, Isolated from McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.

Draft Genome Sequence of the Yeast Rhodotorula sp. Strain CCFEE 5036, Isolated from McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.

(2020)

A draft genome sequence was assembled and annotated of the basidiomycetous yeast Rhodotorula sp. strain CCFEE 5036, isolated from Antarctic soil communities. The genome assembly is 19.07 megabases and encodes 6,434 protein-coding genes. The sequence will contribute to understanding the diversity of fungi inhabiting polar regions.

Cover page of An In Vitro Pipeline for Screening and Selection of Citrus-Associated Microbiota with Potential Anti-"Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus" Properties.

An In Vitro Pipeline for Screening and Selection of Citrus-Associated Microbiota with Potential Anti-"Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus" Properties.

(2020)

Huanglongbing (HLB) is a destructive citrus disease that is lethal to all commercial citrus plants, making it the most serious citrus disease and one of the most serious plant diseases. Because of the severity of HLB and the paucity of effective control measures, we structured this study to encompass the entirety of the citrus microbiome and the chemistries associated with that microbial community. We describe the spatial niche diversity of bacteria and fungi associated with citrus roots, stems, and leaves using traditional microbial culturing integrated with culture-independent methods. Using the culturable sector of the citrus microbiome, we created a microbial repository using a high-throughput bulk culturing and microbial identification pipeline. We integrated an in vitro agar diffusion inhibition bioassay into our culturing pipeline that queried the repository for antimicrobial activity against Liberibacter crescens, a culturable surrogate for the nonculturable "Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus" bacterium associated with HLB. We identified microbes with robust inhibitory activity against L. crescens that include the fungi Cladosporium cladosporioides and Epicoccum nigrum and bacterial species of Pantoea, Bacillus, and Curtobacterium Purified bioactive natural products with anti-"Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus" activity were identified from the fungus C. cladosporioides Bioassay-guided fractionation of an organic extract of C. cladosporioides yielded the natural products cladosporols A, C, and D as the active agents against L. crescens This work serves as a foundation for unraveling the complex chemistries associated with the citrus microbiome to begin to understand the functional roles of members of the microbiome, with the long-term goal of developing anti-"Ca Liberibacter asiaticus" bioinoculants that thrive in the citrus holosystem.IMPORTANCE Globally, citrus is threatened by huanglongbing (HLB), and the lack of effective control measures is a major concern of farmers, markets, and consumers. There is compelling evidence that plant health is a function of the activities of the plant's associated microbiome. Using Liberibacter crescens, a culturable surrogate for the unculturable HLB-associated bacterium "Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus," we tested the hypothesis that members of the citrus microbiome produce potential anti-"Ca Liberibacter asiaticus" natural products with potential anti-"Ca Liberibacter asiaticus" activity. A subset of isolates obtained from the microbiome inhibited L. crescens growth in an agar diffusion inhibition assay. Further fractionation experiments linked the inhibitory activity of the fungus Cladosporium cladosporioides to the fungus-produced natural products cladosporols A, C, and D, demonstrating dose-dependent antagonism to L. crescens.

Cover page of Unravelling the Stability and Capsid Dynamics of the Three Virions of Brome Mosaic Virus Assembled Autonomously In Vivo.

Unravelling the Stability and Capsid Dynamics of the Three Virions of Brome Mosaic Virus Assembled Autonomously In Vivo.

(2020)

Viral capsids are dynamic assemblies that undergo controlled conformational transitions to perform various biological functions. The replication-derived four-molecule RNA progeny of Brome mosaic virus (BMV) is packaged by a single capsid protein (CP) into three types of morphologically indistinguishable icosahedral virions with T=3 quasisymmetry. Type 1 (B1V) and type 2 (B2V) virions package genomic RNA1 and RNA2, respectively, while type 3 (B3+4V) virions copackage genomic RNA3 (B3) and its subgenomic RNA4 (sgB4). In this study, the application of a robust Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression system allowed us to assemble each virion type separately in planta Experimental approaches analyzing the morphology, size, and electrophoretic mobility failed to distinguish between the virion types. Thermal denaturation analysis and protease-based peptide mass mapping experiments were used to analyze stability and the conformational dynamics of the individual virions, respectively. The crystallographic structure of the BMV capsid shows four trypsin cleavage sites (K65, R103, K111, and K165 on the CP subunits) exposed on the exterior of the capsid. Irrespective of the digestion time, while retaining their capsid structural integrity, B1V and B2V released a single peptide encompassing amino acids 2 to 8 of the N-proximal arginine-rich RNA binding motif. In contrast, B3+4V capsids were unstable with trypsin, releasing several peptides in addition to the peptides encompassing four predicted sites exposed on the capsid exterior. These results, demonstrating qualitatively different dynamics for the three types of BMV virions, suggest that the different RNA genes they contain may have different translational timing and efficiency and may even impart different structures to their capsids.IMPORTANCE The majority of viruses contain RNA genomes protected by a shell of capsid proteins. Although crystallographic studies show that viral capsids are static structures, accumulating evidence suggests that, in solution, virions are highly dynamic assemblies. The three genomic RNAs (RNA1, -2, and -3) and a single subgenomic RNA (RNA4) of Brome mosaic virus (BMV), an RNA virus pathogenic to plants, are distributed among three physically homogeneous virions. This study examines the thermal stability by differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF) and capsid dynamics by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) analyses following trypsin digestion of the three virions assembled separately in vivo using the Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression approach. The results provide compelling evidence that virions packaging genomic RNA1 and -2 are distinct from those copackaging RNA3 and -4 in their stability and dynamics, suggesting that RNA-dependent capsid dynamics play an important biological role in the viral life cycle.

Cover page of Metagenomes in the Borderline Ecosystems of the Antarctic Cryptoendolithic Communities.

Metagenomes in the Borderline Ecosystems of the Antarctic Cryptoendolithic Communities.

(2020)

Antarctic cryptoendolithic communities are microbial ecosystems dwelling inside rocks of the Antarctic desert. We present the first 18 shotgun metagenomes from these communities to further characterize their composition, biodiversity, functionality, and adaptation. Future studies will integrate taxonomic and functional annotations to examine the pathways necessary for life to evolve in the extremes.