Transcription factor control of virulence in phytopathogenic fungi
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Plant-pathogenic fungi are a significant threat to economic and food security worldwide. Novel protection strategies are required and therefore it is critical we understand the mechanisms by which these pathogens cause disease. Virulence factors and pathogenicity genes have been identified, but in many cases their roles remain elusive. It is becoming increasingly clear that gene regulation is vital to enable plant infection and transcription factors play an essential role. Efforts to determine their regulatory functions in plant-pathogenic fungi have expanded since the annotation of fungal genomes revealed the ubiquity of transcription factors from a broad range of families. This review establishes the significance of transcription factors as regulatory elements in plant-pathogenic fungi and provides a systematic overview of those that have been functionally characterized. Detailed analysis is provided on regulators from well-characterized families controlling various aspects of fungal metabolism, development, stress tolerance, and the production of virulence factors such as effectors and secondary metabolites. This covers conserved transcription factors with either specialized or nonspecialized roles, as well as recently identified regulators targeting key virulence pathways. Fundamental knowledge of transcription factor regulation in plant-pathogenic fungi provides avenues to identify novel virulence factors and improve our understanding of the regulatory networks linked to pathogen evolution, while transcription factors can themselves be specifically targeted for disease control. Areas requiring further insight regarding the molecular mechanisms and/or specific classes of transcription factors are identified, and direction for future investigation is presented.
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