Programmed cell death (PCD) is an essential part of the defence response in plants and animals against pathogens. Here, we report that PCD is also involved in defence against pathogens of fungi. Vegetative incompatibility is a self/non-self recognition system in fungi that results in PCD when cells of incompatible strains fuse. We quantified the frequency of cell death associated with six vegetative incompatibility (vic) genes in the filamentous ascomycete fungus Cryphonectria parasitica. Cell death frequencies were compared with the effects of vic genes on transmission of viruses between the same strains. We found a significant negative correlation between cell death and virus transmission. We also show that asymmetry in cell death correlates with asymmetry in virus transmission; greater transmission occurs into vic genotypes that exhibit delayed or infrequent PCD after fusion with an incompatible strain. Furthermore, we found that virus infection can have a significant, strain-specific, positive or negative effect on PCD. Specific interactions between vic gene function and viruses, along with correlations between cell death and transmission, strongly implicate PCD as a host-mediated pathogen defence strategy in fungi.

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Keywords Asymmetric programmed cell death, Chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, Heterokaryon incompatibility, Horizontal transmission, Vegetative incompatibility
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Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Biella, S. (Silvia), Smith, M, Aist, J.R. (James R.), Cortesi, P. (Paolo), & Milgroom, M.G. (Michael G.). (2002). Programmed cell death correlates with virus transmission in a filamentous fungus. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 269(1506), 2269–2276. doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.2148