PFP1, a gene encoding an Epc-N domain-containing protein, is essential for pathogenicity of the barley pathogen Rhynchosporium commune.
Scald caused by Rhynchosporium commune is an important foliar disease of barley. Insertion mutagenesis of R. commune generated a nonpathogenic fungal mutant which carries the inserted plasmid in the upstream region of a gene named PFP1. The characteristic feature of the gene product is an Epc-N domain. This motif is also found in homologous proteins shown to be components of histone acetyltransferase (HAT) complexes of fungi and animals. Therefore, PFP1 is suggested to be the subunit of a HAT complex in R. commune with an essential role in the epigenetic control of fungal pathogenicity. Targeted PFP1 disruption also yielded nonpathogenic mutants which showed wild-type-like growth ex planta, except for the occurrence of hyphal swellings. Complementation of the deletion mutants with the wild-type gene reestablished pathogenicity and suppressed the hyphal swellings. However, despite wild-type-level PFP1 expression, the complementation mutants did not reach wild-type-level virulence. This indicates that the function of the protein complex and, thus, fungal virulence are influenced by a position-affected long-range control of PFP1 expression.