Background: Understanding the mechanisms and timescales of plant pathogen outbreaks requires a detailed genome-scale analysis of their population history.

The fungus Magnaporthe (Syn. Pyriculariaoryzae-the causal agent of blast disease of cereals- is among the most destructive plant pathogens to world agriculture and a major threat to the production of rice, wheat, and other cereals. Although M. oryzae is a multihost pathogen that infects more than 50 species of cereals and grasses, all rice-infecting isolates belong to a single genetically defined lineage. Here, we combined the two largest genomic datasets to reconstruct the genetic history of the rice-infecting lineage of M. oryzae based on 131 isolates from 21 countries.

 

 

Results: The global population of the rice blast fungus consists mainly of three well-defined genetic groups and a diverse set of individuals. Multiple population genetic tests revealed that the rice-infecting lineage of the blast fungus probably originated from a recombining diverse group in Southeast Asia followed by three independent clonal expansions that took place over the last ~ 200 years. Patterns of allele sharing identified a subpopulation from the recombining diverse group that introgressed with one of the clonal lineages before its global expansion. Remarkably, the four genetic lineages of the rice blast fungus vary in the number and patterns of presence and absence of candidate effector genes. These genes encode secreted proteins that modulate plant defense and allow pathogen colonization. In particular, clonal lineages carry a reduced repertoire of effector genes compared with the diverse group, and specific combinations of presence and absence of effector genes define each of the pandemic clonal lineages.

 

Conclusions: Our analyses reconstruct the genetic history of the rice-infecting lineage of M. oryzae revealing three clonal lineages associated with rice blast pandemics. Each of these lineages displays a specific pattern of presence and absence of effector genes that may have shaped their adaptation to the rice host and their evolutionary history.

 

See https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-020-00818-z

 

 

Figure 4: Clonal expansions of Magnaporthe oryzae took place in the last 200 years. Bayesian tip calibrated phylogenetic tree using individuals belonging to clonal lineages. Average, and HPD 95% confidence intervals are shown in calendar years. The Bayesian posterior probability is shown in red for nodes leading to the clonal lineage expansions