Uncovering the molecular bases for chilling tolerance of phytopathogenic fungi

Regina Borukhov Sharapov 1 Maxim Itkin 2 Sergey Malitsky 2 Carmit Ziv 1
1Department of Postharvest Science of Fresh Produce, Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center, Rishon LeZion, Israel
2Life Science Core Facilities, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Fungal pathogens are considered the main cause of postharvest losses of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are estimated at about 30% product loss globally. Low temperature storage is an efficient practice to prolong the postharvest performance of crops with minimal negative impact to human health and the environment. However, some phytopathogenic fungi like Botrytis and Alternaria spp. are highly tolerant to cold-storage conditions and can survive as a quiescent infection or even grow and cause rotting and decay of fruit during cold storage.

We apply molecular biology techniques combined with basic biochemistry and Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC/MS) based lipidomics approach to study the molecular basis of fungal tolerance to cold stress. Specifically we investigate the involvement and cross talk between reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling and lipid metabolism in determining fungal morphogenesis and pathogenicity at low temperatures. A special focus is given to the involvement of sphingolipids in regulating ROS production that control cell death and host-pathogen interactions.

New insights from our work will facilitate the development of environment-friendly treatments to control postharvest fungal rotting of fruits stored at low temperatures.