An actin mechanostat ensures hyphal tip sharpness in Phytophthora infestans to achieve host penetration

Bronkhorst, Jochem; Kots, Kiki; Jong, Djanick de; Kasteel, Michiel; Boxmeer, Thomas van; Joemmanbaks, Tanweer; Govers, Francine; Gucht, Jasper van der; Ketelaar, Tijs; Sprakel, Joris


Filamentous plant pathogens apply mechanical forces to pierce their hosts surface and penetrate its tissues. Devastating Phytophthora pathogens harness a specialized form of invasive tip growth to slice through the plant surface, wielding their hypha as a microscopic knife. Slicing requires a sharp hyphal tip that is not blunted at the site of the mechanical interaction. How tip shape is controlled, however, is unknown. We uncover an actin-based mechanostat in Phytophthora infestans that controls tip sharpness during penetration. Mechanical stimulation of the hypha leads to the emergence of an aster-like actin configuration, which shows fast, local, and quantitative feedback to the local stress. We evidence that this functions as an adaptive mechanical scaffold that sharpens the invasive weapon and prevents it from blunting. The hyphal tip mechanostat enables the efficient conversion of turgor into localized invasive pressures that are required to achieve host penetration.