Metarhizium spp. are being used as environmentally friendly alternatives to chemical insecticides, as model systems for studying insect-fungus interactions, and as a resource of genes for biotechnology. We present a comparative analysis of the genome sequences of the broad-spectrum insect pathogen Metarhizium anisopliae and the acridid-specific M. acridum. Whole-genome analyses indicate that the genome structures of these two species are highly syntenic and suggest that the genus Metarhizium evolved from plant endophytes or pathogens. Both M. anisopliae and M. acridum have a strikingly larger proportion of genes encoding secreted proteins than other fungi, while ~30% of these have no functionally characterized homologs, suggesting hitherto unsuspected interactions between fungal pathogens and insects. The analysis of transposase genes provided evidence of repeat-induced point mutations occurring in M. acridum but not in M. anisopliae. With the help of pathogen-host interaction gene database, ~16% of Metarhizium genes were identified that are similar to experimentally verified genes involved in pathogenicity in other fungi, particularly plant pathogens. However, relative to M. acridum, M. anisopliae has evolved with many expanded gene families of proteases, chitinases, cytochrome P450s, polyketide synthases, and nonribosomal peptide synthetases for cuticle-degradation, detoxification, and toxin biosynthesis that may facilitate its ability to adapt to heterogenous environments. Transcriptional analysis of both fungi during early infection processes provided further insights into the genes and pathways involved in infectivity and specificity. Of particular note, M. acridum transcribed distinct G-protein coupled receptors on cuticles from locusts (the natural hosts) and cockroaches, whereas M. anisopliae transcribed the same receptor on both hosts. This study will facilitate the identification of virulence genes and the development of improved biocontrol strains with customized properties.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research