A single fungal MAP kinase controls plant cell-to-cell invasion by the rice blast fungus

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Blast disease destroys up to 30% of the rice crop annually and threatens global food security. The blast fungusMagnaporthe oryzaeinvades plant tissue with hyphae that proliferate and grow from cell to cell, often through pit fields, where plasmodesmata cluster. We showed that chemical genetic inhibition of a single fungal mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, Pmk1, preventsM. oryzaefrom infecting adjacent plant cells, leaving the fungus trapped within a single plant cell. Pmk1 regulates expression of secreted fungal effector proteins implicated in suppression of host immune defenses, preventing reactive oxygen species generation and excessive callose deposition at plasmodesmata. Furthermore, Pmk1 controls the hyphal constriction required for fungal growth from one rice cell to the neighboring cell, enabling host tissue colonization and blast disease.

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