• Metarhizium robertsii interactions with Phaseolus vulgaris (Haricot Bean)

      Hu, Shasha; Department of Biological Sciences
      Metarhizium is an insect pathogenic fungus, as well as a plant root symbiont. During symbiotic interactions, it can benefit the plant by improving plant growth, antagonizing plant pathogens and herbivores, and enhancing plant tolerance to abiotic stresses. In this thesis, the interactions between Metarhizium robertsii and Phaseolus vulgaris (haricot bean) were studied from two aspects. First, a phenotypically degenerated (low conidia production) strain of Metarhizium was serially passaged through bean plant. Second, the immune responses of haricot bean during endophytic colonization were assessed. Commercial application of Metarhizium for insect biocontrol requires optimal production of conidia as infective propagules. It was demonstrated that conidial production and virulence of phenotypically degenerated Metarhizium were restored by serial passages through bean roots, as well as switchgrass roots, and wax moth larvae. A decrease in the expression of fungal DNA methyltransferase was observed in the phenotypically degenerated Metarhizium strain through bean passages. Whole genome bisulfite sequencing analysis showed differences in the distribution of differentially methylated regions in the degenerated and subsequently recovered strains. Metarhizium can antagonize the plant pathogen, Fusarium solani f. sp. phaseoli during bean root colonization. Using comprehensive plant hormone analysis, transcriptional expression, and stomatal size analysis, bean immune responses to colonization by Metarhizium and/or Fusarium were assessed. In comparison to un-inoculated bean, root colonization by Metarhizium resulted in reduction of abscisic acid (ABA), increased stomatal size, and decreased expression of plant immunity genes in bean leaves, which is different from those in bean colonized by Fusarium. Furthermore, exogenous application of ABA resulted in reduction of bean root colonization by Metarhizium but increased colonization by Fusarium, compared to corresponding plants without ABA application. Therefore, ABA was implicated in differential responses of bean plants to root colonization by Metarhizium and Fusarium. In conclusion, this thesis provided new insights into the study of the interactions between Metarhizium and haricot bean. Some novel findings were that fungal DNA methyltransferase was implicated in the recovery of phenotypically degenerated Metarhizium and a plant hormone, abscisic acid was implicated in differential interactions of endophytic colonization by Metarhizium when compared to a pathogenic interaction by Fusarium.