Comparative genomics of Alternaria species provides insights into the pathogenic lifestyle of Alternaria brassicae – a pathogen of the Brassicaceae family

Alternaria brassicae, a necrotrophic pathogen, causes Alternaria Leaf Spot, one of the economically important diseases of Brassica crops. Many other Alternaria spp. such as A. brassicicola and A. alternata are known to cause secondary infections in the A. brassicae-infected Brassicas. The genome architecture, pathogenicity factors, and determinants of host-specificity of A. brassicae are unknown. In this study, we annotated and characterised the recently announced genome assembly of A. brassicae and compared it with other Alternaria spp. to gain insights into its pathogenic lifestyle. Additionally, we sequenced the genomes of two A. alternata isolates that were co-infecting B. juncea. Genome alignments within the Alternaria spp. revealed high levels of synteny between most chromosomes with some intrachromosomal rearrangements. We show for the first time that the genome of A. brassicae, a large-spored Alternaria species, contains a dispensable chromosome. We identified 460 A. brassicae-specific genes, which included many secreted proteins and effectors. Furthermore, we have identified the gene clusters responsible for the production of Destruxin-B, a known pathogenicity factor of A. brassicae. The study provides a perspective into the unique and shared repertoire of genes within the Alternaria genus and identifies genes that could be contributing to the pathogenic lifestyle of A. brassicae.

Authors: Sivasubramanian Rajarammohan, Kumar Paritosh, Deepak Pental, Jagreet Kaur