Demystifying biotrophs: FISHing for mRNAs to decipher plant and algal pathogen–host interaction at the single cell level

Julia Badstöber, Claire M. M. Gachon, Jutta Ludwig-müller, Adolf M. Sandbichler, Sigrid Neuhauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
39 Downloads (Pure)


Plant-pathogen interactions follow spatial and temporal developmental dynamics where gene expression in pathogen and host undergo crucial changes. Therefore, it is of great interest to detect, quantify and localise where and when key genes are active to understand these processes. Many pathosystems are not accessible for genetic amendments or other spatially-resolved gene expression monitoring methods. Here, we adapt single molecule FISH techniques to demonstrate the presence and activity of mRNAs at the single-cell level using phytomyxids in their plant and algal host in lab and field material. This allowed us to monitor and quantify the expression of genes from the clubroot pathogen Plasmodiophora brassicae, several species of its Brassica hosts, and of several brown algae, including the genome model Ectocarpus siliculosus, infected with the phytomyxid Maullinia ectocarpii. We show that mRNAs are localised along a spatiotemporal gradient, thus providing a proof-of-concept of the usefulness of single-molecule FISH to increase knowledge about the interactions between plants, algae and phytomyxids. The methods used are easily applicable to any interaction between microbes and their algal or plant host, and have therefore the potential to rapidly increase our understanding of key, spatially- and temporally-resolved processes underpinning complex plant–microbe interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date31 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Parasitism
  • Pathogens
  • Plant symbiosis


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