The fungal sesquiterpenoid pyrenophoric acid B uses the plant ABA biosynthetic pathway to inhibit seed germination.
Pyrenophoric acid (P-Acid), P-Acid B, and P-Acid C are three phytotoxic sesquiterpenoids produced by the ascomycete seed pathogen Pyrenophora semeniperda, a fungus proposed as a mycoherbicide for biocontrol of cheatgrass, an extremely invasive weed. When tested in cheatgrass bioassays, these metabolites were able to delay seed germination, with P-Acid B being the most active compound. Here, we have investigated the cross-kingdom activity of P-Acid B and its mode of action, and found that it activates the abscisic acid (ABA) signaling pathway in order to inhibit seedling establishment. P-Acid B inhibits seedling establishment in wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana, while several mutants affected in the early perception as well as in downstream ABA signaling components were insensitive to the fungal compound. However, in spite of structural similarities between ABA and P-Acid B, the latter is not able to activate the PYR/PYL family of ABA receptors. Instead, we have found that P-Acid B uses the ABA biosynthesis pathway at the level of alcohol dehydrogenase ABA2 to reduce seedling establishment. We propose that the fungus P. semeniperda manipulates plant ABA biosynthesis as a strategy to reduce seed germination, increasing its ability to cause seed mortality and thereby increase its fitness through higher reproductive success. :.