Although interest in animal pathogenic oomycetes is increasing, the molecular basis mediating oomycete-animal relationships remains virtually unknown. Crinkler (CRN) genes, which have been traditionally associated with the cytotoxic activity displayed by plant pathogenic oomycetes, were recently detected in transcriptome sequences from the entomopathogenic oomycete Lagenidium giganteum, suggesting that these genes may represent virulence factors conserved in both animal and plant pathogenic oomycetes. In order to further characterize the L. giganteum pathogenome, an on-going genomic survey was mined to reveal novel putative virulence factors, including canonical oomycete effectors Crinkler 13 (CRN13) orthologs. These novel sequences provided a basis to initiate gene expression analyses and determine if the proposed L. giganteum virulence factors are differentially expressed in the presence of mosquito larvae (Aedes aegypti).
Sequence analyses revealed that L. giganteum express CRN13 transcripts. The predicted proteins, like other L. giganteum CRNs, contained a conserved LYLA motif at the N terminal, but did not display signal peptides. In contrast, other potential virulence factors, such as Glycoside Hydrolases family 20 (hexosaminidase) and 37 (trehalase) proteins (GH20 and GH37), contained identifiable signal peptides. Genome mining demonstrated that GH20 genes are absent from phytopathogenic oomycete genomes, and that the L. giganteum GH20 sequence is the only reported peronosporalean GH20 gene. All other oomycete GH20 homologs were retrieved from animal pathogenic, saprolegnialean genomes. Furthermore, phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that saprolegnialean and peronosporalean GH20 protein sequences clustered in unrelated clades. The saprolegnialean GH20 sequences appeared as a strongly supported, monophyletic group nested within an arthropod-specific clade, suggesting that this gene was acquired via a lateral gene transfer event from an insect or crustacean genome. In contrast, the L. giganteum GH20 protein sequence appeared as a sister taxon to a plant-specific clade that included exochitinases with demonstrated insecticidal activities. Finally, gene expression analyses demonstrated that the L. giganteum GH20 gene expression level is significantly modulated in the presence of mosquito larvae. In agreement with the protein secretion predictions, CRN transcripts did not show any differential expression.
These results identified GH20 enzymes, and not CRNs, as potential pathogenicity factors shared by all animal pathogenic oomycetes.