Stress sensitivity of three related phytopathogenic Fusarium species (Fusarium graminearum, Fusarium oxysporum and Fusarium verticillioides) to different oxidative, osmotic, cell wall, membrane, fungicide stressors and an antifungal protein (PAF) were studied in vitro. The most prominent and significant differences were found in oxidative stress tolerance: all the three F. graminearum strains showed much higher sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide and, to a lesser extent, to menadione than the other two species. High sensitivity of F. verticillioides strains was also detectable to an azole drug, Ketoconazole. Surprisingly, no or limited differences were observed in response to other oxidative, osmotic and cell wall stressors. These results indicate that fungal oxidative stress response and especially the response to hydrogen peroxide (this compound is involved in a wide range of plant-fungus interactions) might be modified on niche-specific manner in these phylogenetically related Fusarium species depending on their pathogenic strategy. Supporting the increased hydrogen peroxide sensitivity of F. graminearum, genome-wide analysis of stress signal transduction pathways revealed the absence one CatC-type catalase gene in F. graminearum in comparison to the other two species.
Yeast protein sequence-based homology search for glutathione (GSH) metabolic enzymes and GSH transporters demonstrated that Aspergillus nidulans has a robust GSH uptake and metabolic system with several paralogous genes. In wet laboratory experiments, two key genes of GSH metabolism, gcsA, and glrA, encoding γ-l-glutamyl-l-cysteine synthetase and glutathione reductase, respectively, were deleted. The gene gcsA was essential, and the ΔgcsA mutant required GSH supplementation at considerably higher concentration than the Saccharomyces cerevisiae gsh1 mutant (8–10 mmol l−1 vs. 0.5 μmol l−1). In addition to some functions known previously, both genes were important in the germination of conidiospores, and both gene deletion strains required the addition of extra GSH to reach wild-type germination rates in liquid cultures. Nevertheless, the supplementation of cultures with 10 mmol l−1 GSH was toxic for the control and ΔglrA strains especially during vegetative growth, which should be considered in future development of high GSH-producer fungal strains. Importantly, the ΔglrA strain was characterized by increased sensitivity toward a wide spectrum of osmotic, cell wall integrity and antimycotic stress conditions in addition to previously reported temperature and oxidative stress sensitivities. These novel phenotypes underline the distinguished functions of GSH and GSH metabolic enzymes in the stress responses of fungi.