Cells in cells: Morphogenetic and metabolic strategies conditioning rice infection by the blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae

Jessie Fernandez, Richard A. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae is a global food security threat due to its destruction of cultivated rice. Of the world's rice harvest, 10-30 % is lost each year to this pathogen, and changing climates are likely to favor its spread into new areas. Insights into how the fungus might be contained could come from the wealth of molecular and cellular studies that have been undertaken in order to shed light on the biological underpinnings of blast disease, aspects of which we review herein. Infection begins when a three-celled spore lands on the surface of a leaf, germinates, and develops the specialized infection structure called the appressorium. The mature appressorium develops a high internal turgor that acts on a thin penetration peg, forcing it through the rice cuticle and into the underlying epidermal cells. Primary then invasive hyphae (IH) elaborate from the peg and grow asymptomatically from one living rice cell to another for the first few days of infection before host cells begin to die and characteristic necrotic lesions form on the surface of the leaf, from which spores are produced to continue the life cycle. To gain new insights into the biology of rice blast disease, we argue that, conceptually, the infection process can be viewed as two discrete phases occurring in markedly different environments and requiring distinct biochemical pathways and morphogenetic regulation: outside the host cell, where the appressorium develops in a nutrient-free environment, and inside the host cell, where filamentous growth occurs in a glucose-rich, nitrogen-poor environment, at least from the perspective of the fungus. Here, we review the physiological and metabolic changes that occur in M. oryzae as it transitions from the surface to the interior of the host, thus enabling us to draw lessons about the strategies that allow M. oryzae cells to thrive in rice cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-47
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Appressorium
  • Carbon metabolism
  • Infection-related development
  • Invasive hyphae
  • Magnaporthe oryzae
  • Metabolism
  • Nitrogen metabolism
  • Rice blast disease
  • Signaling pathways

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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