A novel partitivirus orchestrates conidiation, stress response, pathogenicity, and secondary metabolism of the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium majus

Mycoviruses are widely present in all major groups of fungi but those in entomopathogenic Metarhizium spp. remain understudied. In this investigation, a novel double-stranded (ds) RNA virus is isolated from Metarhizium majus and named Metarhizium majus partitivirus 1 (MmPV1). The complete genome sequence of MmPV1 comprises two monocistronic dsRNA segments (dsRNA 1 and dsRNA 2), which encode an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) and a capsid protein (CP), respectively. MmPV1 is classified as a new member of the genus Gammapartitivirus in the family Partitiviridae based on phylogenetic analysis. As compared to an MmPV1-free strain, two isogenic MmPV1-infected single-spore isolates were compromised in terms of conidiation, and tolerance to heat shock and UV-B irradiation, while these phenotypes were accompanied by transcriptional suppression of multiple genes involved in conidiation, heat shock response and DNA damage repair. MmPV1 attenuated fungal virulence since infection resulted in reduced conidiation, hydrophobicity, adhesion, and cuticular penetration. Additionally, secondary metabolites were significantly altered by MmPV1 infection, including reduced production of triterpenoids, and metarhizins A and B, and increased production of nitrogen and phosphorus compounds. However, expression of individual MmPV1 proteins in M. majus had no impact on the host phenotype, suggesting insubstantive links between defective phenotypes and a single viral protein. These findings indicate that MmPV1 infection decreases M. majus fitness to its environment and its insect-pathogenic lifestyle and environment through the orchestration of the host conidiation, stress tolerance, pathogenicity, and secondary metabolism.
Funding Information
  • National Natural Science Foundation of China (32172473)

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