The infection biology of Fusarium graminearum: Defining the pathways of spikelet to spikelet colonisation in wheat ears

Neil A. Brown, Martin Urban, Allison M L van de Meene, Kim E. Hammond-Kosack

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155 Citations (SciVal)


Fusarium graminearum is one of the main causal agents of Fusarium Ear Blight on wheat. How the pathogen colonises the entire ear is not known. There is controversy over whether this mycotoxin producing pathogenic fungus invades wheat floral tissue using a necrotrophic or another mode of nutrition. A detailed microscopic investigation has revealed how wild-type fungal hyphae, of the sequenced strain PH-1, colonised susceptible wheat ears and spread from spikelet to spikelet. At the advancing infection front, colonisation of the host cortex occurred ahead of any vascular colonisation and the hyphae adapted to the available intercellular space between host cells. Intercellular hyphae then became abundant and host cells lost their entire cellular contents just prior to intracellular colonisation. No host cells died ahead of the infection. However, while these deep cortex infections progressed, just below the surface the highly photosynthetic chlorenchyma cells were observed to have died prior to colonisation. Behind the infection front, hyphae were abundant in the vasculature and the cortex, often growing through the pit fields of thick walled cells. This high level of inter- and intracellular fungal colonisation resulted in the collapse of the non-lignified cell-types. In this middle zone of infection, hyphal diameters were considerably enlarged. Far behind the infection front inter- and intracellular hyphae were devoid of contents and had often collapsed. At later stages of infection, the pathogen switched from predominately vertical to lateral growth and accumulated below the surface of the rachis. Here the lignified host cell walls became heavily degraded and hyphae ruptured the epidermis and produced an aerial mycelium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-571
Number of pages17
JournalFungal Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010


  • Cell biology
  • Gibberella zeae
  • Infection biology
  • Internodes
  • Microscopy
  • Nodes
  • Rachis
  • Triticum aestivum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science
  • Genetics
  • Infectious Diseases


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