José Pérez Martín

Morphogenesis and cell cycle regulators as virulence factors in fungi

How growth and cell cycle progression are coordinately regulated during development in eukaryotic organisms is an active area of research. However, little knowledge has been provided to understand how these processes are related to the induction of the virulence program in pathogenic fungi and to define the role of cell cycle and morphogenetic regulators as true virulence factors. The main idea we are trying to address is to assume that cell cycle and morphogenetic regulators could have in pathogenic fungi new roles dedicated to adapt the cell cycle and morphogenesis to the virulence program. Until now, the main experimental approaches to define and to study the regulation of the pathogenic developmental programs in fungi have focused on the study of signal transduction and transcriptional changes. Therefore, our research lines offer original opportunities to address the molecular basis of fungal pathogenicity under a novel point of view, which at the same time is complementary to previous approaches in the field. To proof the concept, we use as model system the pathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis, since it is perfectly suited to analyze the relationships between cell cycle, morphogenesis and pathogenicity.

Our starting hypothesis is that the induction of the infective filament in U. maydis, the first step in the pathogenic process, relies on a dual process that involves by one side a specific cell cycle arrest and in other side the specific activation of a hyperpolarization growth. We believe that the impairment of any of these processes will have as an outcome the inhibition of the virulence. The laboratory have been framed in three objectives:

  • To study the mechanisms responsible of cell cycle arrest during infective filament formation.
  • To study how polar growth is regulated during the induction of the infective filament.
  • To study how the signal emanating from the transcriptional virulence program is transmitted to the cell cycle and morphogenetic regulators.

Cell images of AB33-derived cells carrying Tub1-GFP and Cut11-RFP fusions to detect the microtubule cytoskeleton (arrows) and the nuclear envelope growing in conditions that induce the expression of the b genes. Different stages during the production of the infective hyphae are shown (C-F). The inset shows the same strain growing in non-inducing conditions. Two cells are shown, one in G2 phase (the nuclear envelope is present and the microtubules are forming a cytoplasmic network, A) and the other is in the middle of mitosis (there is no nuclear envelope signal and the microtubules are concentrated in the spindle, B).

Group members
José Pérez-Martín Research Professor (CSIC)
María Tenorio Gómez Postdoctoral
Sonia Castanheira Dias PhD Student
Sara Rivera Martín PhD Student
Antonio de la Torre Morillo PhD Student
Paola Bardetti PhD Student
Recent publications
Castanheira S, Mielnichuk N and Pérez-Martín J (2014)
Programmed cell cycle arrest is required for infection of corn plants by the fungus Ustilago maydis.
Development 141: 4817-4826.
de Sena-Tomás C, Navarro-Gonzalez M., Kues U and Pérez-Martín J (2013)
A DNA damage checkpoint pathway coordinates the division of dikaryotic cells in the ink cap mushroom Coprinopsis cinerea.
Genetics 195: 47-57.
Sartorel E. and Pérez-Martín J (2012)
The distinct interaction between cell cycle regulation and the widely conserved Morphogenesis-Related (MOR) pathway in the fungus Ustilago maydis determines morphology.
J. Cell Sci. 125: 4597-4608
de Sena-Tomás C, Fernandez-Alvarez A, Holloman WK and Pérez-Martín J (2011)
DNA-damage-response-signaling cascade regulates proliferation of the phytopathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis in planta.
Plant Cell 23: 1654-1665.
Carbó N and Pérez-Martín J (2010)
Activation of the Cell Wall Integrity pathway promotes escape from G2 in the fungus Ustilago maydis.
PLoS Genetics 6: 1001009.
Research grants
MINECO: BIO2011-27773
Links of interest