A small Ustilago maydis effector acts as a novel adhesin for hyphal aggregation in plant tumors

Fumi Fukada, Nicole Rössel, Karin Münch, Timo Glatter, Regine Kahmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The biotrophic basidiomycete fungus Ustilago maydis causes smut disease in maize. Hallmarks of the disease are characteristic large tumors in which dark pigmented spores are formed. Here, we functionally characterized a novel core effector lep1 (late effector protein 1) which is highly expressed during tumor formation and contributes to virulence. We characterize lep1 mutants, localize the protein, determine phenotypic consequences upon deletion as well as constitutive expression, and analyze relationships with the repellent protein Rep1 and hydrophobins. In tumors, lep1 mutants show attenuated hyphal aggregation, fail to undergo massive late proliferation and produce only a few spores. Upon constitutive expression, cell aggregation is induced and the surface of filamentous colonies displays enhanced hydrophobicity. Lep1 is bound to the cell wall of biotrophic hyphae and associates with Rep1 when constitutively expressed in hyphae. We conclude that Lep1 acts as a novel kind of cell adhesin which functions together with other surface-active proteins to allow proliferation of diploid hyphae as well as for induction of the morphological changes associated with spore formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-431
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Ustilago maydis
  • adhesion
  • core effector
  • hyphal aggregation
  • surface-active proteins
  • virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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