Comparative Analysis of the Genomes of Two Field Isolates of the Rice Blast Fungus Magnaporthe oryzae
Rice blast caused by Magnaporthe oryzae is one of the most destructive diseases of rice worldwide. The fungal pathogen is notorious for its ability to overcome host resistance. To better understand its genetic variation in nature, we sequenced the genomes of two field isolates, Y34 and P131. In comparison with the previously sequenced laboratory strain 70-15, both field isolates had a similar genome size but slightly more genes. Sequences from the field isolates were used to improve genome assembly and gene prediction of 70-15. Although the overall genome structure is similar, a number of gene families that are likely involved in plant-fungal interactions are expanded in the field isolates. Genome-wide analysis on asynonymous to synonymous nucleotide substitution rates revealed that many infection-related genes underwent diversifying selection. The field isolates also have hundreds of isolate-specific genes and a number of isolate-specific gene duplication events. Functional characterization of randomly selected isolate-specific genes revealed that they play diverse roles, some of which affect virulence. Furthermore, each genome contains thousands of loci of transposon-like elements, but less than 30% of them are conserved among different isolates, suggesting active transposition events in M. oryzae. A total of approximately 200 genes were disrupted in these three strains by transposable elements. Interestingly, transposon-like elements tend to be associated with isolate-specific or duplicated sequences. Overall, our results indicate that gain or loss of unique genes, DNA duplication, gene family expansion, and frequent translocation of transposon-like elements are important factors in genome variation of the rice blast fungus. Magnaporthe oryzae is the causal agent of rice blast that is mainly controlled with resistance cultivars. However, genetic variations in the pathogen often lead to overcoming R gene-mediated resistance in rice cultivars. In this study we sequenced two field isolates from China and Japan. In comparison with the laboratory strain that was previously sequenced, the field isolates have a similar genome size and overall genome structure. However, they have slightly more genes and contain a number of expanded gene families that are likely involved in plant-fungal interactions. Each of the isolates has specific genes, some of which affect virulence and some others are important for asexual development. The three strains differ noticeably in the distribution of transposon-like elements. Many of the transposable elements tend to be associated with isolate-specific or duplicated sequences. This study revealed genetic factors involved in genome variation of the rice blast fungus.