The oomycetes are filamentous eukaryotic microorganisms, distinct from true fungi, many of which act as crop or fish pathogens that cause devastating losses in agriculture and aquaculture. Chitin is present in all true fungi, but it occurs in only small amounts in some Saprolegniomycetes and it is absent in Peronosporomycetes. However, the growth of several oomycetes is severely impacted by competitive chitin synthase (CHS) inhibitors. Here, we shed light on the diversity, evolution and function of oomycete CHS proteins. We show by phylogenetic analysis of 93 putative CHSs from 48 highly diverse oomycetes, including the early diverging Eurychasma dicksonii, that all available oomycete genomes contain at least one putative CHS gene. All gene products contain conserved CHS motifs essential for enzymatic activity and form two Peronosporomycete-specific and six Saprolegniale-specific clades. Proteins of all clades, except one, contain an N-terminal microtubule interacting and trafficking (MIT) domain as predicted by protein domain databases or manual analysis, which is supported by homology modelling and comparison of conserved structural features from sequence logos. We identified at least three groups of CHSs conserved among all oomycete lineages and used phylogenetic reconciliation analysis to infer the dynamic evolution of CHSs in oomycetes. The evolutionary aspects of CHS diversity in modern-day oomycetes are discussed. In addition, we observed hyphal tip rupture in Phytophthora infestans upon treatment with the CHS inhibitor nikkomycin Z. Combining data on phylogeny, gene expression, and response to CHS inhibitors, we propose the association of different CHS clades with certain developmental stages.
- Chitin synthase
- Growth inhibition
- Microtubule interacting and trafficking (MIT) domain