Magnaporthe and Its Relatives


One of the main current societal challenges is the production of food supplies to feed a constantly growing human population. In the forthcoming years, we will have to increase the global production of staple cereals such as rice to achieve this goal. Several factors compromise this objective, including the variation of raining patterns due to climate change and pathogen infections that drastically reduce crop yields. Wheat and rice are frequently affected by diseases caused by several root‐infecting species of Magnaporthales such as Gaeumannomyces graminis, Magnaporthiopsis rhizophila and Nakatea oryzae (syn. Magnaporthe salvinii). Other economically significant root pathogen of this fungal family is Magnaporthiopsis poae, which causes severe damages in turfs used for sport courts flooring and home lawns. The blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, an extremely damaging airborne fungal pathogen of wheat and rice, also infects underground tissues. This is in accordance with the distinct penetration strategies displayed by M. oryzae during aerial and underground plant colonisation.

Key Concepts

  • A clade is a phylogenetic group, which comprises a single common ancestor and all the descendants of that ancestor.
  • The appressorium in Magnaporthales is a melanised fungal structure required for penetration of aerial plant tissues, and it is formed at the tips of spore germ tubes or hyphae.
  • An hyphopodium in Magnaporthales is a specialised structure produced at the tip of the hyphae to penetrate roots. Gaemannomyces sp. can produce simple or lobed hyphopodia. M. oryzae produces simple hyphopodia.
  • Disease‐suppressive soils are soils in which little or no disease occurs under favorable conditions for disease development. Generally, this is due to the presence of indigenous soil microbes.
  • The immune response in rice roots and leaves against the blast disease differs.

Keywords: root infection; take‐all; rice blast; hyphopodium; fungal pathogenesis

Figure 1. G. graminisandM. oryzaepenetrate plant roots by means of hyphopodia. (a) Light microscope image and (b) scanning electron micrograph of lobed hyphopodia on Mylar films developed by G. graminis strains. Reproduced with permission from Money et al. 1998. © Elsevier. (c) Confocal image of M. oryzae hyphopodia on rice roots. (d) Scanning electron micrograph of M. oryzae hyphopodia on hydrophilic polystyrene. (c,d) Reproduced with permission from Illana et al. 2013. © Springer Nature.
Figure 2. Disease symptoms of take‐all on wheat and summer patch disease on turfgrass. (a) Pigmented runner hyphae of G. tritici on the surface of a wheat root. Reproduced with permission from Cook 2003. © Elsevier. (b) Adult wheat plants with severe take‐all rot symptoms on the roots and the stem base. Courtesy of AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, UK)/BASF. (c) Circular patches of wheat plants in a field showing typical take‐all disease symptoms with visible white heads and stunted growth. Courtesy of Kansas State University. (d) Necrotic root lesions caused by M. poae. (e) Typical circular patches of yellow‐brown colour on turfgrass caused by M. poae. (d,e) Courtesy of Dr. Lane Tredway, North Carolina State University.
Figure 3. Disease symptoms and fungal structures produced by the rice blast fungusM. oryzae. (A) Panicle blast symptoms in a rice field. (B) Noninfected (left) and infected (right) rice panicle with necrotic lesions on neck (a), leaf (b) and collar (c). (A,B) Courtesy of Dr. Yulin Jia, USDA‐ARS, Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center. (C) Fallen panicle showing necrosis in the neck. (D,E) Typical diamond‐shaped lesions with brown margins on 3‐weeks‐old rice leaves. (F) Necrotic symptoms on rice roots. (G) Scanning electron micrograph of M. oryzae conidia (CO) producing appressoria (AP) on barley leaves. (H) Confocal image of M. oryzae conidia on hydrophilic polystyrene membranes producing simple hyphopodia‐like structures and preinvasive hyphae. The image was taken at 24 h using tetramethylrhodamine isothiocyanate (TRITC)‐labelled wheat germ agglutinin (antichitin lectin), which is shown in red. The pre‐invasive hyphae (pre‐IH) shows reduced levels of chitin compared to the cell wall of the hyphopodium (HY).
Figure 4. Rice blast disease infection cycle. Right panel: M. oryzae leaf cycle. M. oryzae leaf infection cycle starts when a conidium lands on a leaf and attaches to the surface. Shortly after, the conidium produces a small germ tube, which differentiates into a melanised appressorium. A penetration peg formed at the base of the appressorium crosses the plant cell wall initiating fungal invasion. Invasive growth is different compared to the fungal growth on leaf surfaces. The invasive hypha moves beyond the first infected cell during a few days. Finally, conidiophores emerge, and the fungus initiates sporulation between 6 and 15 days, releasing thousands of conidia during weeks to the environment. Reproduced with permission from Ribot et al. 2008. © Elsevier. Left panel: M. oryzae root infection cycle potentially begins from infected plant debris or dormant structures present in the soil. These resting structures can germinate and penetrate into the plant roots. Fungal hypha colonises the vascular system of the root spreading systemically. The fungus moves to the upper parts of the plant producing typical blast lesions from which conidia are formed. These spores are dispersed to other plants by wind or water, propagating the disease. Reproduced with permission from Illana et al. 2013. © Springer Nature.


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Web Links

FungiDB – an integrated genomic and functional genomic database for the fungal kingdom,

Magnaporthe grisea genome database (Ensembl Fungi),

Magnaporthe oryzae Poly(A) Sites Database provides all polyadenylation sites mapped in M. oryzae genome. Rodríguez‐Romero J, Marconi M, Ortega‐Campayo V, et al. (2018) Virulence‐ and signaling‐associated genes display a preference for long 3′UTRs during rice infection and metabolic stress in the rice blast fungus. New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/nph.15405.

Oryzabase: Integrated Rice Science Database,

OrygenesDB: an interactive tool for rice reverse genetics,

PHI base (Pathogen‐Host Interaction database) offers molecular and biological information on genes involved in host‐pathogen interactions, http://www.phi‐

Phytopathogenic Fungi and Oomycete EST Database provides Expressed Sequence Tags obtained from eighteen species of plant pathogenic fungi, two species of phytopathogenic oomycetes and three species of saprophytic fungi. Soanes DM and Talbot NJ (2005) A bioinformatic tool for analysis of EST transcript abundance during infection‐related development by Magnaporthe grisea. Molecular Plant Pathology 6: 503–512.

RAP‐DB: The Rice Annotation Project Database,

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Ortega‐Campayo, Víctor, Pérez‐Martín, Marta, and Sesma, Ane(Nov 2018) Magnaporthe and Its Relatives. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021311.pub2]