Is the fungus Magnaporthe losing DNA methylation?
The long terminal repeat retrotransposon, Magnaporthe gypsy-like element (MAGGY), has been shown to be targeted for cytosine methylation in a subset of Magnaporthe oryzae field isolates. Analysis of the F1 progeny from a genetic cross between methylation-proficient (Br48) and methylation-deficient (GFSI1-7-2) isolates revealed that methylation of the MAGGY element was governed by a single dominant gene. Positional cloning followed by gene disruption and complementation experiments revealed that the responsible gene was the DNA methyltransferase, MoDMT1, an ortholog of Neurospora crassa Dim-2. A survey of MAGGY methylation in 60 Magnaporthe field isolates revealed that 42 isolates from rice, common millet, wheat, finger millet, and buffelgrass were methylation proficient while 18 isolates from foxtail millet, green bristlegrass, Japanese panicgrass, torpedo grass, Guinea grass, and crabgrass were methylation deficient. Phenotypic analyses showed that MoDMT1 plays no major role in development and pathogenicity of the fungus. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis showed that the average copy number of genomic MAGGY elements was not significantly different between methylation-deficient and -proficient field isolates even though the levels of MAGGY transcript were generally higher in the former group. MoDMT1 gene sequences in the methylation-deficient isolates suggested that at least three independent mutations were responsible for the loss of MoDMT1 function. Overall, our data suggest that MoDMT1 is not essential for the natural life cycle of the fungus and raise the possibility that the genus Magnaporthe may be losing the mechanism of DNA methylation on the evolutionary time scale.