Phytotoxic activity of metabolites isolated from Rutstroemia sp.n., the causal agent of bleach blonde syndrome on cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum).
A fungal pathogen soon to be described as Rutstroemia capillus-albis (Rutstroemiaceae, Helotiales, Leotiomycetes) has been identified as the causal agent of 'bleach blonde syndrome' on the invasive annual grass weed Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) in western North America. This apparently common but previously undescribed disease causes premature senescence and sterility, but does not affect seed germination or seedling emergence and growth. This study investigated whether the new species produces phytotoxins that could be implicated in pathogenesis. The compounds 9-O-methylfusarubin, 9-O-methylbostrycoidin, 5-O-methylnectriafurone, trans-methyl-p-coumarate and terpestacin were isolated from the solid culture of this fungus. The undescribed absolute stereochemistry at C-3 of 9-O-methylfusarubin and at C-1′ of 5-O-methylnectriafurone were assigned by applying electronic and vibrational circular dichroism (ECD and VCD) combined with computational methods and the advanced Mosher's method, respectively. The first three listed compounds are naphtoquinone pigments, while terpestacin is a sesterterpene, and trans-methyl-p-coumarate could be the product of an unusual fungal phenylpropanoid biosynthesis pathway. In a juvenile plant immersion bioassay, both 9-O-methylfusarubin and terpestacin proved to be highly toxic at 10-4 M, causing wilting and plant death within 10 days. This finding suggests that these two compounds could play a role in pathogenesis on B. tectorum.