A domain-centric analysis of oomycete plant pathogen genomes reveals unique protein organization

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Oomycetes comprise a diverse group of organisms that morphologically resemble fungi but belong to the stramenopile lineage within the supergroup of chromalveolates. Recent studies have shown that plant pathogenic oomycetes have expanded gene families that are possibly linked to their pathogenic lifestyle. We analyzed the protein domain organization of 67 eukaryotic species including four oomycete and five fungal plant pathogens. We detected 246 expanded domains in fungal and oomycete plant pathogens. The analysis of genes differentially expressed during infection revealed a significant enrichment of genes encoding expanded domains as well as signal peptides linking a substantial part of these genes to pathogenicity. Overrepresentation and clustering of domain abundance profiles revealed domains that might have important roles in host-pathogen interactions but, as yet, have not been linked to pathogenicity. The number of distinct domain combinations (bigrams) in oomycetes was significantly higher than in fungi. We identified 773 oomycete-specific bigrams, with the majority composed of domains common to eukaryotes. The analyses enabled us to link domain content to biological processes such as host-pathogen interaction, nutrient uptake, or suppression and elicitation of plant immune responses. Taken together, this study represents a comprehensive overview of the domain repertoire of fungal and oomycete plant pathogens and points to novel features like domain expansion and species-specific bigram types that could, at least partially, explain why oomycetes are such remarkable plant pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-644
Number of pages17
JournalPlant Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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