The basidiomycete Heterobasidion annosum (Fr.) Bref. s.l. is a filamentous white rot fungus, considered to be the most economically important pathogen of conifer trees. Despite the severity of the tree infection, very little is known about the molecular and biochemical aspects related to adaptation to abiotic stresses. In this study, the osmotic and oxidative tolerance as well as the role of the HaHOG1 Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) gene were investigated. The transcript levels of the yeast orthologues GPD1, HSP78, STL1, GRE2 and the ATPase pumps ENA1, PMR1, PMC1 known to have an important role in osmotolerance were also quantified under salt osmotic conditions. The HaHOG1 gene was used for a heterologous expression and functional study in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Deltahog1 strain. Moreover, the phosphorylation level of HaHog1p was studied under salt osmotic and oxidative stress. The result showed that H. annosum displayed a decreased growth when exposed to an increased concentration of osmotic and oxidative stressors. GPD1, HSP78, STL1 and GRE2 showed an induction already at 10 min after exposure to salt stress. Among the ATPase pumps studied, PMC1 was highly induced when the fungus was exposed to 0.2 M CaCl(2) for 60 min. The heterologous expression of the HaHOG1 sequence in yeast confirmed that the gene is able to restore the osmotolerance and oxidative tolerance in the S. cerevisiae hog1Delta mutant strain. The HaHog1p was strongly phosphorylated in the presence of NaCl, KCl, H(2)O(2) but not in the presence of CaCl(2) and MgCl(2). The GFP-HaHog1p fusion protein accumulated in the nuclei of the S. cerevisiae hog1Delta cells when exposed to high osmotic conditions but not under oxidative stress. These results provide the first insights about the response of H. annosum to osmotic and oxidative stress and elucidate the role of the HaHOG1 gene in such conditions.
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