From Genome Sequence to Gene to Mutant to Function

Research in the last five years has been increasingly driven by the availability of whole genome sequences and cDNA libraries from many plants and microorganisms (National Center for Biotechnology Information, http://www.ncbi.nlm. nih.gov). The Arabidopsis genome sequence was released in 2001 (Arabidopsis Genome Initiative 2001) and the draft DNA sequence of two subspecies of rice was released this year (Goff et al. 2002; Yu et al. 2002). Likewise, several fungal genome sequences are now available for model organisms as well as plant pathogens (http://www-genome. wi.mit.edu/annotation/fungi/magnaporthe/; http://www-genome.wi.mit.edu/annotation/fungi/neurospora/; Friedrich et al. 2001; Turgeon and Yoder 2002). Consortia of scientists have been established to bring together fungal genomic resources for a research community. These include M. grisea (http://www.riceblast.org/) and Phytophthora (http://www. ncgr.org/pgc; Torto et al. 2002).

Comparative analysis of several fungal genome sequences including that of C. heterostrophus, F. graminearum, and Botrytis cinerea, with those of Neurospora crassa and yeast has led to the identification of putative common essential genes, candidate fungal-specific genes, and candidate pathogenicity genes (Turgeon and Yoder 2002). Systematic analysis of these candidate pathogenicity genes through knock out studies is underway. In addition, genes for polyketide synthases and nonribosomal peptide synthetases are being identified and systematically disrupted since many secondary products from fungi are known to have functions as host-specific toxins.

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