Differential Regulation of Maize and Sorghum Orthologs in Response to the Fungal Pathogen Exserohilum turcicum

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Pathogens that infect more than one host offer an opportunity to study how resistance mechanisms have evolved across different species. Exserohilum turcicum infects both maize and sorghum and the isolates are host-specific, offering a unique system to examine both compatible and incompatible interactions. We conducted transcriptional analysis of maize and sorghum in response to maize-specific and sorghum-specific E. turcicum isolates and identified functionally related co-expressed modules. Maize had a more robust transcriptional response than sorghum. E. turcicum responsive genes were enriched in core orthologs in both crops, but only up to 16% of core orthologs showed conserved expression patterns. Most changes in gene expression for the core orthologs, including hub genes, were lineage specific, suggesting a role for regulatory divergent evolution. We identified several defense-related shared differentially expressed (DE) orthologs with conserved expression patterns between the two crops, suggesting a role for parallel evolution of those genes in both crops. Many of the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) during the incompatible interaction were related to quantitative disease resistance (QDR). This work offers insights into how different hosts with relatively recent divergence interact with a common pathogen. Our results are important for developing resistance to this critical pathogen and understanding the evolution of host-pathogen interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number675208
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - May 25 2021


  • Exserohilum turcicum
  • host resistance
  • maize (Zea mays L.)
  • quantitative disease resistance
  • sorghum
  • transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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