PloS one

RNA interference of endochitinases in the sugarcane endophyte Trichoderma virens 223 reduces its fitness as a biocontrol agent of pineapple disease.

PMID 23110120


The sugarcane root endophyte Trichoderma virens 223 holds enormous potential as a sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides in the control of sugarcane diseases. Its efficacy as a biocontrol agent is thought to be associated with its production of chitinase enzymes, including N-acetyl-ß-D-glucosaminidases, chitobiosidases and endochitinases. We used targeted gene deletion and RNA-dependent gene silencing strategies to disrupt N-acetyl-ß-D-glucosaminidase and endochitinase activities of the fungus, and to determine their roles in the biocontrol of soil-borne plant pathogens. The loss of N-acetyl-ß-D-glucosaminidase activities was dispensable for biocontrol of the plurivorous damping-off pathogens Rhizoctonia solani and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, and of the sugarcane pathogen Ceratocystis paradoxa, the causal agent of pineapple disease. Similarly, suppression of endochitinase activities had no effect on R. solani and S. sclerotiorum disease control, but had a pronounced effect on the ability of T. virens 223 to control pineapple disease. Our work demonstrates a critical requirement for T. virens 223 endochitinase activity in the biocontrol of C. paradoxa sugarcane disease, but not for general antagonism of other soil pathogens. This may reflect its lifestyle as a sugarcane root endophyte.