Research Interests

Global food security is seriously affected by fungal pathogens of the Magnaporthaceae family. Two of the most damaging fungal pathogens affecting the staple foods rice and wheat belong to this family: the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae, which also causes a very serious disease in wheat, and the causal agent of take-all disease of wheat, Gaeumannomyces graminis.

The process of infection of leaves by M. oryzae has been extensively studied. We have shown that it can undergo a different set of developmental events that are typical of root-infecting pathogens such as G. graminis. Extraordinary genomic resources are now available for the rice blast fungus. Currently, the genetic dissection and comparative analysis of these two different pathways of plant attack by M. oryzae and their regulation constitute an exciting challenge.

M. grisea penetrates the stele. Confocal imaging of radial sections of a two-week-old rice and barley seedlings infected with GFP-tagged M. grisea.


Organ-specific infection mechanisms

The recognition of plant cell surfaces (leaves/roots) leads to the development of different infection structures (appressoria or hyphopodia) before fungal penetration. It is not known if the hyphopodium is an intermediate step that takes place before the formation of a mature appressorium or is an independent developmental process. Several approaches including lectin cytochemistry, gene expression analysis of infection-related genes and well characterised mutants were used for a detailed analysis of this morphogenetic development. Our results reveal genetic commonalities between appressorium and hyphopodium differentiation suggesting that hyphopodia could represent primitive appressoria. Thus, hyphopodium formation is likely to be an intermediate step before mature appressorium development (Tucker et al, 2010).

Post-transcriptional gene regulation mechanisms

RNA-binding proteins play a central role in post-transcriptional mechanisms that control gene expression. Identification of fungal-specific RNA-binding proteins is helping to unravel post-transcriptional networks and cellular processes that confer identity to the fungal kingdom.

RNA metabolism is controlled by RNA-binding proteins which play a crucial role in a number of steps between de novo transcription and protein synthesis (Sesma, 2016).


We have characterised two proteins involved in RNA metabolism, the karyopherin exportin-5 and the RNA-binding protein Rbp35. These two proteins are required for fungal virulence (Franceschetti et al., 2011; Rodríguez-Romero et al., 2015; Tucker et al., 2010). Rbp35 is not essential for fungal viability but regulates the length of 3’UTRs of transcripts with developmental and virulence-associated functions. The lack of clear Rbp35 orthologues in yeast, plants and animals indicates that Rbp35 is a novel auxiliary protein of the polyadenylation machinery of filamentous fungi.

We also found that different classes of sRNAs are altered in Exp5 and Rbp35, which suggests that in addition to other functions, these two proteins participate in different sRNA biogenesis pathways. M. oryzae is predominantly a clonally propagating organism, reproducing by conidial production from disease lesions. Increasing our knowledge of sRNA pathways can help us to understand mechanisms of transposon silencing and can reveal effective alternative control methods against M. oryzae.

Research Projects
  • Regulación post-transcripcional en respuesta a estrés ambiental en el hongo de la piriculariosis del arroz MINECO, 2015- 2018. PI: Ane Sesma.

  • Regulación traduccional y abordaje de su potencial biotecnológico para mejorar la adaptación de las plantas a estreses bióticos y abióticos 2014- 2018 (Comunidad de Madrid / EU). PIs: Ane Sesma (CBGP/UPM), Carmen Castresana (CNB/CSIC), y Mar Castellano (INIA).

  • Post-transcriptional networks regulating organ-specific and general infection mechanisms in the rice blast fungus. Marie Curie Reintegration grant 2012-2016 (FP7-2011-CIG). PI: Ane Sesma.

  • Infection mechanisms in the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. MICINN, 2012-2015. PI: Ane Sesma.

  • Dissection of distinct pathogenesis-related developmental processes in the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe grisea. David Philips BBSRC fellowship, 2005-2010. PI: Ane Sesma.



Representative Publications

Marconi, M., Sesma, A., Rodríguez-Romero, J.L., Rosano González, M.L., Wilkinson, M.D. 2018. Genome-wide polyadenylation site mapping datasets in the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. Scientific Data 5, 180271. DOI: 10.1038/sdata.2018.271

Lu, X; Zhang, J; Brown, B; Li, R; Rodríguez-Romero, J; Berasategui, A; Liu, B; Xu, M; Luo, D; Pan, Z; Baerson, SR; Gershenzon, J; Li, Z; Sesma, A; Yang, B; Peters, RJ. 2018. "Inferring roles in defense from metabolic allocation of rice diterpenoids". Plant Cell. DOI: 10.1105/tpc.18.00205".

Rodríguez-Romero, J; Marconi, M; Ortega-Campayo, V; Demuez, M; Wilkinson, MD; Sesma, A. 2018. "Virulence- and signaling-associated genes display a preference for long 3′UTRs during rice infection and metabolic stress in the rice blast fungus". New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/nph.15405".

Galhano, R; Illana, A; Ryder, LS; Rodríguez-Romero, J; Demuez, M; Badaruddin, M; Martinez-Rocha, AL; Soanes, DM; Studholme, DJ; Talbot, NJ; Sesma, A. 2017. "Tpc1 is an important Zn(II)2Cys6 transcriptional regulator required for polarized growth and virulence in the rice blast fungus". PLoS Pathogens. DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006516".

Sesma, A; Castresana, C; Castellano, MM. 2017. "Regulation of translation by TOR, eIF4E and eIF2α in plants: current knowledge, challenges and future perspectives". Frontiers in Plant Science. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2017.00644".

Illana, A., Marconi, M., Rodriguez-Romero, J., Xu, P., Dalmay, T., Wilkinson, M.D., Ayllon, M.A., and Sesma, A. 2017. Molecular characterization of a novel ssRNA ourmia-like virus from the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. Archives of Virology 162, 891-895. doi: 10.1007/s00705-016-3144-9.

Rodríguez Iglesias, A; Rodríguez González, A; Irvine, AG; Sesma, A; Urban, M; Hammond-Kosack, KE; Wilkinson, MD. 2016. "Publishing FAIR Data: an exemplar methodology utilizing PHI-base". Frontiers in Plant Science. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2016.00641".

Sesma, A. 2016. "RNA metabolism and regulation of virulence programs in fungi". Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2016.03.019".

Hedtke, M; Rauscher, S; Röhrig, J; Rodriguez, J; Yu, Z; Fischer, R. 2015. "Light-dependent gene activation in Aspergillus nidulans is strictly dependent on phytochrome and involves the interplay of phytochrome and white-collar-regulated histone H3 acetylation". Molecular Microbiology. DOI: 10.1111/mmi.13062".

Rodriguez-Romero, J; Franceschetti, M; Bueno, E; Sesma, A. 2015. "Multilayer regulatory mechanisms control cleavage factor I proteins in filamentous fungi". Nucleic Acids Research. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gku1297 ".

Marconi, M; Rodriguez-Romero, J; Sesma, A; Wilkinson, MD. 2014. "Bioinformatics tools for Next-Generation RNA sequencing analysis ", p. 371-391. In A. Sesma and T. von der Haar (eds.), Fungal RNA Biology. Springer International Publishing Switzerland. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-05687-6_15".

Sesma, A; von der Haar, T (ed.). 2014. "Fungal RNA Biology". Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

Illana, A; Rodriguez-Romero, J; Sesma, A. 2013. "Major Plant Pathogens of the Magnaporthaceae Family", p. 45-88. In B. A. Horwitz, P. K. Mukherjee, M. Mukherjee, and C. P. Kubicek (eds.), Genomics of Soil- and Plant-Associated Fungi, vol. 36. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-39339-6_4".

Xu, M., Galhano, R.; Wiemann, P.; Bueno, E.; Tiernan, M.; Wu, W.; Chung, I.M.; Gershenzon, J.; Tudzynski, B.; Sesma, A.; Peters, R.J. 2012. "Genetic evidence for natural product-mediated plant–plant allelopathy in rice (Oryza sativa)". New Phytologist. 193: 570–575.

Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics UPM – INIA Parque Científico y Tecnológico de la U.P.M. Campus de Montegancedo
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