Nutrient sensing and acquisition in fungi: Mechanisms promoting pathogenesis in plant and human hosts

Louise E. Johns, Gustavo H. Goldman, Laure N.A. Ries, Neil A. Brown

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Fungal pathogens destroy our crops and cause hazardous human infections, therefore threatening our health and food security. The ability of fungal pathogens to sense and respond to dynamic host microenvironments enables the establishment and progression of disease. Sensing nutritional cues is vital throughout fungal infection of either plants or mammals: enabling the pathogen to invade, adapt and survive in the face of host immunity. Acquiring nutrients from their host for energy, growth and repair is also essential to a fungal pathogen's success. Cell-surface proteins embedded in the fungal plasma membrane sense and transport host macro- and micronutrients, including carbon and nitrogen sources and minerals such as iron and zinc. Using examples from model crop (Fusarium graminearum, Magnaporthe oryzae and Ustilago maydis) and human (Aspergillus fumigatus, Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans) pathogens we review the nutrient sensing and transporting roles of fungal cell-surface receptor, transporter and transceptor proteins, and their importance to plant and human fungal disease. We discuss how their cellular localisation, central role in cell signalling and importance to disease makes these fungal cell-surface proteins candidates in the search for new strategies to control fungal diseases, while highlighting the areas where further research is needed to make this possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalFungal Biology Reviews
Early online date30 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Louise Johns was funded by a University of Bath URSA PhD studentship. Neil Brown was funded by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Future Leaders Fellowship [ BB/N011686/1 ] and a University of Bath Start-Up fund. The collaboration between Neil Brown and Gustavo Goldman was supported by a Research England QR 2018.19 funding and a University of Bath-FAPESP Sprint Award [ VB-BB3FNB and FAPESP 2018/22040-8 ]. Laure Ries was funded by a FAPESP grant [ 2017/14159-2 ]. Gustavo Goldman was funded by a FAPESP grant [ 2016/07870-9 ]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adaptation
  • Fungal pathogen
  • Nutrient
  • Sensing
  • Uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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