Apoptosis-like programmed cell death in the grey mould fungus Botrytis cinerea: Genes and their role in pathogenicity

Neta Shlezinger, Adi Doron, Amir Sharon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


A considerable number of fungal homologues of human apoptotic genes have been identified in recent years. Nevertheless, we are far from being able to connect the different pieces and construct a primary structure of the fungal apoptotic regulatory network. To get a better picture of the available fungal components, we generated an automatic search protocol that is based on protein sequences together with a domaincentred approach. We used this protocol to search all the available fungal databases for domains and homologues of human apoptotic proteins. Among all known apoptotic domains, only the BIR [baculovirus IAP (inhibitor of apoptosis protein) repeat] domain was found in fungi. A single protein with one or two BIR domains is present in most (but not all) fungal species. We isolated the BIR-containing protein from the grey mould fungus Botrytis cinerea and determined its role in apoptosis and pathogenicity. We also isolated and analysed BcNMA, a homologue of the yeast NMA11 gene. Partial knockout or overexpression strains of BcBIR1 confirmed that BcBir1 is anti-apoptotic and this activity was assigned to the N′-terminal part of the protein. Plant infection assays showed that the fungus undergoes massive PCD (programmed cell death) during early stages of infection. Further studies showed that fungal virulence was fully correlated with the ability of the fungus to cope with plant-induced PCD. Together, our result show that BcBir1 is a major regulator of PCD in B. cinerea and that proper regulation of the host-induced PCD is essential for pathogenesis in this and other similar fungal pathogens.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1493-1498
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Baculovirus inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) repeat (Bir1)
  • Botrytis cinerea
  • Cell death
  • Fungus
  • Nma111
  • Pathogenesis
  • Programmed cell death (PCD)


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