The Transcription Factor BcLTF1 Regulates Virulence and Light Responses in the Necrotrophic Plant Pathogen <i>Botrytis cinerea</i>

<div><p><i>Botrytis cinerea</i> is the causal agent of gray mold diseases in a range of dicotyledonous plant species. The fungus can reproduce asexually by forming macroconidia for dispersal and sclerotia for survival; the latter also participate in sexual reproduction by bearing the apothecia after fertilization by microconidia. Light induces the differentiation of conidia and apothecia, while sclerotia are exclusively formed in the absence of light. The relevance of light for virulence of the fungus is not obvious, but infections are observed under natural illumination as well as in constant darkness. By a random mutagenesis approach, we identified a novel virulence-related gene encoding a GATA transcription factor (BcLTF1 for <u>l</u>ight-responsive <u>TF</u>1) with characterized homologues in <i>Aspergillus nidulans</i> (NsdD) and <i>Neurospora crassa</i> (SUB-1). By deletion and over-expression of <i>bcltf1</i>, we confirmed the predicted role of the transcription factor in virulence, and discovered furthermore its functions in regulation of light-dependent differentiation, the equilibrium between production and scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and secondary metabolism. Microarray analyses revealed 293 light-responsive genes, and that the expression levels of the majority of these genes (66%) are modulated by BcLTF1. In addition, the deletion of <i>bcltf1</i> affects the expression of 1,539 genes irrespective of the light conditions, including the overexpression of known and so far uncharacterized secondary metabolism-related genes. Increased expression of genes encoding alternative respiration enzymes, such as the alternative oxidase (AOX), suggest a mitochondrial dysfunction in the absence of <i>bcltf1</i>. The hypersensitivity of Δ<i>bctlf1</i> mutants to exogenously applied oxidative stress - even in the absence of light - and the restoration of virulence and growth rates in continuous light by antioxidants, indicate that BcLTF1 is required to cope with oxidative stress that is caused either by exposure to light or arising during host infection.</p></div>