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Deciphering the role of secondary metabolites in the chemical interaction between phytopathogens and the citrus host

Grant number: 23/06874-4
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): July 01, 2023
Effective date (End): June 30, 2027
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Chemistry - Organic Chemistry
Principal Investigator:Taicia Pacheco Fill
Grantee:Júlio César Jerônimo Barbosa
Host Institution: Instituto de Química (IQ). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:22/02992-0 - Deciphering the role of secondary metabolites in the chemical interaction between phytopathogens and the citrus host, AP.PNGP.PI


Phytopathogens have developed numerous specialized virulence strategies to facilitate colonization of plant tissues, as well as infect and modulate host plant physiology, including the production of secondary metabolites (natural products) that could act as virulence factors. Brazil is the largest producer of fresh oranges and the largest exporter of orange juice in the world, and these citrus fruits are susceptible to numerous fungal diseases that cause significant losses to the Brazilian economy. The diseases that cause the greatest economic losses are the green and blue molds caused by the fungi Penicillium digitatum and Penicillium italicum, respectively, although other phytopathogens are also reported. Research on these phytopathogens focuses on treatments against the symptoms of the infection. However, the molecular basis of the infection and host specificity remain largely unknown. In this sense, our objective is to structurally characterize peptides produced by these phytopathogens and to study them in relation to their functionality in the pathogen-host interaction, through molecular biology and genetic studies. The idea is to perform the deletion of key genes involved in the biosynthesis of these metabolites (NRPSs), allowing the production of mutant organisms deficient in the respective metabolites, which will be studied in relation to their virulence against the host. These studies could provide more information about the strategies used by these species of the genus Penicillium and other fungal phytopathogens to infect citrus. Understanding phytotoxin production in its biological context represents an important step towards developing ways to protect citrus from fungal infections.

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