Successful colonization of plants by prokaryotic and eukaryotic pathogens requires active effector-mediated suppression of defense responses and host tissue reprogramming. Secreted effector proteins can either display their activity in the apoplast or translocate into host cells and function therein. Although characterized in bacteria, the molecular mechanisms of effector delivery by fungal phytopathogens remain elusive. Here we report the establishment of an assay that is based on biotinylation of effectors in the host cytoplasm as hallmark of uptake. The assay exploits the ability of the bacterial biotin ligase BirA to biotinylate any protein that carries a short peptide (Avitag). It is based on the stable expression of BirA in the cytoplasm of maize plants and on engineering of Ustilago maydis strains to secrete Avitagged effectors. We demonstrate translocation of a number of effectors in the U. maydis–maize system and show data that suggest that the uptake mechanism could be rather nonspecific The assay promises to be a powerful tool for the classification of effectors as well as for the functional study of effector uptake mechanism not only in the chosen system but more generally for systems where biotrophic interactions are established.
Root-knot nematodes (RKNs; Meloidogyne spp.) are plant parasites with a broad host range causing great losses worldwide. To parasitize their hosts, RKNs establish feeding sites in roots known as giant cells. The majority of work studying plant–RKN interactions in susceptible hosts addresses establishment of the giant cells and there is limited information on the early defense responses. Here we characterized early defense or pattern-triggered immunity (PTI) against RKNs in Arabidopsis thaliana. To address PTI, we evaluated known canonical PTI signaling mutants with RKNs and investigated the expression of PTI marker genes after RKN infection using both quantitative PCR and β-glucuronidase reporter transgenic lines. We showed that PTI-compromised plants have enhanced susceptibility to RKNs, including the bak1-5 mutant. BAK1 is a common partner of distinct receptors of microbe- and damage-associated molecular patterns. Furthermore, our data indicated that nematode recognition leading to PTI responses involves camalexin and glucosinolate biosynthesis. While the RKN-induced glucosinolate biosynthetic pathway was BAK1-dependent, the camalexin biosynthetic pathway was only partially dependent on BAK1. Combined, our results indicate the presence of BAK1-dependent and -independent PTI against RKNs in A. thaliana, suggesting the existence of diverse nematode recognition mechanisms.
Self-association of plant NLRs is required for immune signaling. •
Heteromeric NLR assemblies link sensor and executor NLR.
Intracellular nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptors (NLRs) are basic elements of innate immunity in plants and animals. Whereas animal NLRs react to conserved microbe- or damage-associated molecular patterns, plant NLRs intercept the actions of diverse pathogen virulence factors (effectors). In this review, we discuss recent genetic and molecular evidence for functional NLR pairs, and discuss the significance of NLR self-association and heteromeric NLR assemblies in the triggering of downstream signaling pathways. We highlight the versatility and impact of cooperating NLR pairs that combine pathogen sensing with the initiation of defense signaling in both plant and animal immunity. We propose that different NLR receptor molecular configurations provide opportunities for fine-tuning resistance pathways and enhancing the host's pathogen recognition spectrum to keep pace with rapidly evolving microbial populations.
Both plants and animals rely on nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat-containing (NB-LRR or NLR) proteins to respond to invading pathogens and activate immune responses. How plant NB-LRR proteins respond to pathogens is poorly understood. We undertook a gain-of-function random mutagenesis screen of the potato NB-LRR immune receptor R3a to study how this protein responds to the effector protein AVR3a from the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans. R3a response can be extended to the stealthy AVR3aEM isoform of the effector while retaining recognition of AVR3aKI. Each one of eight single amino acid mutations is sufficient to expand the R3a response to AVR3aEM and other AVR3a variants. These mutations occur across the R3a protein, from the N terminus to different regions of the LRR domain. Further characterization of these R3a mutants revealed that at least one of them was sensitized, exhibiting a stronger response than the wild-type R3a protein to AVR3aKI. Remarkably, the N336Y mutation, near the R3a nucleotide-binding pocket, conferred response to the effector protein PcAVR3a4 from the vegetable pathogen P. capsici. This work contributes to understanding how NB-LRR receptor specificity can be modulated. Together with knowledge of pathogen effector diversity, this strategy can be exploited to develop synthetic immune receptors.
Parasitic worms threaten human, animal and plant health by infecting people, livestock and crops worldwide. Animals and plants share an anciently evolved innate immune system. Parasites modulate this immune system by secreting proteins to maintain their parasitic lifestyle. This thesis describes how venom-allergen-like proteins (VAPs) that both animal- and plant-parasitic nematodes release into their hosts, modulate host innate immunity. On the one hand we found that one particular secreted VAP from the potato cyst nematode can activate host defenses in tomato plants, opening an opportunity for plant breeders to generate novel nematode-resistant cultivars. We showed that plants make more efficiently use of their limited repertoire of immune receptors by guarding common virulence targets of multiple unrelated plant pathogens. While on the other hand, we describe how VAPs may be used by parasites to suppress the host defense responses mediated by extracellular immune receptors. In short, this fundamental study contributes to our understanding of the molecular basis of persistent infections by parasitic nematodes in plants and in animals.
Next-generation sequencing technologies with markers covering the full Glomeromycota phylum were used to uncover phylogenetic community structure of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) associated with Festuca brevipila. The study system was a semi-arid grassland with high plant diversity and a steep environmental gradient in pH, C, N, P and soil water content. The AMF community in roots and rhizosphere soil were analyzed separately and consisted of 74 distinct operational taxonomic units (OTUs) in total. Community-level variance partitioning showed that the role of environmental factors in determining AM species composition was marginal when controlling for spatial autocorrelation at multiple scales. Instead, phylogenetic distance and spatial distance were major correlates of AMF communities: OTUs that were more closely related (and which therefore may have similar traits) were more likely to co-occur. This pattern was insensitive to phylogenetic sampling breadth. Given the minor effects of the environment, we propose that at small scales closely related AMF positively associate through biotic factors such as plant-AMF filtering and interactions within the soil biota.
Cytokinins are essential plant hormones that control almost every aspect of plant growth and development. Their function in mediating plant susceptibility to fungal biotrophs and gall-causing pathogens is well known. Here we highlight the interaction between cytokinins and salicylic acid pathways. Furthermore, we discuss ways in which cytokinin signaling could crosstalk with plant immune networks. Some of these networks are modulated by pathogens to propagate disease, whereas others help the host to mitigate an infection.
Secondary plant metabolites are potentially of great value for providing robust resistance in plants against insect pests. Such metabolites often comprise small lipophilic molecules (SLMs), and can be similar... to currently used insecticides, for example, the pyrethroids, neonicotinoids and butenolides, which provide more effective pest management than the resistance traits exploited by breeding.
Crop plants mostly lack the SLMs that provide their wild ancestors with resistance to pests. However, resistance traits based on the biosynthesis of SLMs present promising new opportunities for crop resistance to pests. Advances in genetic engineering of secondary metabolite pathways... offer specific new approaches but... are more demanding than the genetic engineering approaches adopted so far...
Use of non-constitutively expressed resistance traits delivered via the seed is a more sustainable approach than previously achieved, and could underpin development of perennial arable crops protected by sentinel plant technologies.
Genes encoding the virulence-promoting type III secretion system (T3SS) in phytopathogenic bacteria are induced at the start of infection, indicating that recognition of signals from the host plant initiates this response. However, the precise nature of these signals and whether their concentrations can be altered to affect the biological outcome of host–pathogen interactions remain speculative. Here we use a metabolomic comparison of resistant and susceptible genotypes to identify plant-derived metabolites that induce T3SS genes in Pseudomonas syringae pv tomato DC3000 and report that mapk phosphatase 1 (mkp1), an Arabidopsis mutant that is more resistant to bacterial infection, produces decreased levels of these bioactive compounds. Consistent with these observations, T3SS effector expression and delivery by DC3000 was impaired when infecting the mkp1 mutant. The addition of bioactive metabolites fully restored T3SS effector delivery and suppressed the enhanced resistance in the mkp1 mutant. Pretreatment of plants with pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) to induce PAMP-triggered immunity (PTI) also restricts T3SS effector delivery and enhances resistance by unknown mechanisms, and the addition of the bioactive metabolites similarly suppressed both aspects of PTI. Together, these results demonstrate that DC3000 perceives multiple signals derived from plants to initiate its T3SS and that the level of these host-derived signals impacts bacterial pathogenesis.
Experts in Europe and Africa are racing to develop resistant grain varieties as university researchers predict the likely spread across continents of the air-borne spores of the fungus ---- Scientists are warning that wheat is facing a serious threat from a fungal disease that could wipe out the world’s crop if not quickly contained. Wheat rust, a devastating disease known as the “polio of agriculture”, has spread from Africa to South and Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with calamitous losses for the world’s second most important grain crop, after rice. There is mounting concern at the dangers posed to global food security.Experts have been aware of the threat since a major epidemic swept across North America’s wheat belt in the 1950s, destroying up to 40 per cent of the crop. Since then, tens of millions of pounds have been invested in developing rust-resistant varieties of the grain. However, an outbreak in Uganda in 1999 was discovered to have been caused by a virulent mutation of the fungus. There has been alarm at the speed at which further mutations have subsequently developed and spread across continents.Plant scientists in Britain estimate the latest developments mean that 90 per cent of all current African wheat varieties are now vulnerable to the disease.
Plants are constantly interpreting microbial signals from potential pathogens and potential commensals or mutualists. Because plants have no circulating cells dedicated to this task, every plant cell must, in principle, recognize any microbe as friend, foe, or irrelevant bystander. That tall order is mediated by an array of innate immune system receptors: pattern-recognition receptors outside the plant cell and nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)–like receptors (NLRs) inside the cell. Despite their importance for plant health, how NLRs function mechanistically has remained obscure. On page 299 of this issue, Williams et al. (1) reveal a role for heterodimerization between NLRs and show how the rather limited NLR repertoire of any plant genome might be enhanced by combinatorial diversity.
Membrane trafficking functions in the delivery of proteins that are newly synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to their final destinations, such as the plasma membrane (PM) and the vacuole, and in the internalization of extracellular components or PM-associated proteins for recycling or degradative regulation. These trafficking pathways play pivotal roles in the rapid responses to environmental stimuli such as challenges by microorganisms. In this review, we provide an overview of the current knowledge of plant membrane trafficking and its roles in plant–microbe interactions. Although there is little information regarding the mechanism of pathogenic modulation of plant membrane trafficking thus far, recent research has identified many membrane trafficking factors as possible targets of microbial modulation.
Here we show that map-based cloning of Pi35 identifies multiple functional polymorphisms that allow effective control of the disease, and thatPi35 is allelic to Pish, which mediates race-specific resistance to blast and encodes a protein containing a nucleotide-binding site (NBS) and leucine-rich repeats (LRRs). Analysis using Pish–Pi35 chimeric genes demonstrated that multiple functional polymorphisms cumulatively enhance resistance, and that an amino acid residue in a LRR of Pi35 is strongly associated with the gene's mediation of quantitative but consistent resistance to pathogen isolates in Japan, in contrast to Pish, which mediates resistance to only a single isolate. Our results reinforce the substantial importance of mining allelic variation for crop breeding.
Pochonia chlamydosporia has been intensively studied in nematode control of different crops. We have investigated the interaction between P. chlamydosporia and the model system Arabidopsis thaliana under laboratory conditions in the absence of nematodes. This study demonstrates that P. chlamydosporia colonizes A. thaliana. Root colonization monitored with green fluorescent protein-tagged P. chlamydosporia and quantitative PCR (qPCR) quantitation methods revealed root cell invasion. Fungal inoculation reduced flowering time and stimulated plant growth, as determined by total FW increase, faster development of inflorescences and siliques, and a higher yield in terms of seed production per plant. Precocious flowering was associated with significant expression changes in key flowering-time genes. In addition, we also provided molecular and genetic evidence that point towards jasmonate signaling as an important factor to modulate progression of plant colonization by the fungus. Our results indicate that P. chlamydosporia provides benefits to the plant in addition to its nematophagous activity. This report highlights the potential of P. chlamydosporia to improve yield in economically important crops.
Microbe associated molecular pattern (MAMP) receptors in plants recognize MAMPs and activate basal defences; however a complete understanding of the molecular and physiological mechanisms conferring immunity remains elusive. Pathogens suppress active defence in plants through the combined action of effector proteins. Here we show that the chloroplast is a key component of early immune responses. MAMP perception triggers the rapid, large-scale suppression of nuclear encoded chloroplast-targeted genes (NECGs). Virulent Pseudomonas syringae effectors reprogramme NECG expression in Arabidopsis, target the chloroplast and inhibit photosynthetic CO2 assimilation through disruption of photosystem II. This activity prevents a chloroplastic reactive oxygen burst. These physiological changes precede bacterial multiplication and coincide with pathogen-induced abscisic acid (ABA) accumulation. MAMP pretreatment protects chloroplasts from effector manipulation, whereas application of ABA or the inhibitor of photosynthetic electron transport, DCMU, abolishes the MAMP-induced chloroplastic reactive oxygen burst, and enhances growth of a P. syringae hrpA mutant that fails to secrete effectors.
Soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) is an important crop that provides a sustainable source of protein and oil worldwide. Soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines Ichinohe) is a microscopic roundworm that feeds on the roots of soybean and is a major constraint to soybean production. This nematode causes more than US$1 billion in yield losses annually in the United States alone1, making it the most economically important pathogen on soybean. Although planting of resistant cultivars forms the core management strategy for this pathogen, nothing is known about the nature of resistance. Moreover, the increase in virulent populations of this parasite on most known resistance sources necessitates the development of novel approaches for control. Here we report the map-based cloning of a gene at the Rhg4 (for resistance to Heterodera glycines 4) locus, a major quantitative trait locus contributing to resistance to this pathogen. Mutation analysis, gene silencing and transgenic complementation confirm that the gene confers resistance. The gene encodes a serine hydroxymethyltransferase, an enzyme that is ubiquitous in nature and structurally conserved across kingdoms. The enzyme is responsible for interconversion of serine and glycine and is essential for cellular one-carbon metabolism. Alleles of Rhg4 conferring resistance or susceptibility differ by two genetic polymorphisms that alter a key regulatory property of the enzyme. Our discovery reveals an unprecedented plant resistance mechanism against a pathogen. The mechanistic knowledge of the resistance gene can be readily exploited to improve nematode resistance of soybean, an increasingly important global crop.
Host plant resistance has been widely used for controlling the major rice pest brown planthopper (BPH, Nilaparvata lugens). However, adaptation of the wild BPH population to resistance limits the effective use of resistant rice varieties. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis was conducted to identify resistance-breaking genes against the anti-feeding mechanism mediated by the rice resistance gene Bph1. QTL analysis in iso-female BPH lines with single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers detected a single region on the 10th linkage group responsible for the virulence. The QTL explained from 57 to 84% of the total phenotypic variation. Bulked segregant analysis with next-generation sequencing in F2 progenies identified five SNPs genetically linked to the virulence. These analyses showed that virulence to Bph1 was controlled by a single recessive gene. In contrast to previous studies, the gene-for-gene relationship between the major resistance gene Bph1 and virulence gene of BPH was confirmed. Identified markers are available for map-based cloning of the major gene controlling BPH virulence to rice resistance.
The white mold fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a devastating necrotrophic plant pathogen with a remarkably broad host range. The interaction of necrotrophs with their hosts is more complex than initially thought, and still poorly understood.
We combined bioinformatics approaches to determine the repertoire of S. sclerotiorum effector candidates and conducted detailed sequence and expression analyses on selected candidates. We identified 486 S. sclerotiorum secreted protein genes expressed in planta, many of which have no predicted enzymatic activity and may be involved in the interaction between the fungus and its hosts. We focused on those showing (i) protein domains and motifs found in known fungal effectors, (ii) signatures of positive selection, (iii) recent gene duplication, or (iv) being S. sclerotiorum-specific. We identified 78 effector candidates based on these properties. We analyzed the expression pattern of 16 representative effector candidate genes on four host plants and revealed diverse expression patterns.
These results reveal diverse predicted functions and expression patterns in the repertoire of S. sclerotiorum effector candidates. They will facilitate the functional analysis of fungal pathogenicity determinants and should prove useful in the search for plant quantitative disease resistance components active against the white mold.
A stepwise mutation occurred in both pathogens and their respective hosts has played seminal role in the co-evolutionary arms race evolution in diverse pathosystems. The process driven by rice blast AvrPik and Pik alleles was investigated through population genetic and evolutionary approaches. The genetic diversity of the non-signal domain of AvrPik was higher than that in its signal peptide domain. Positive selection for particular AvrPik alleles in the Northeastern region of China was stronger than in the South. The perfect relationship between the functional lineages and AvrPik allele specific pathotypes was established by ruling out the non-functional lineages derived from additional copies. Only four alleles conditioning stepwise pathotypes were detected in natural populations, which were likely created by only one evolutionary pathway with three recognizable mutation steps. Two non-stepwise pathotypes were determined by two blocks in a network constructed by all the 16 possible alleles, indicating that a natural evolution process can be artificially changed by a combination of specific SNPs. Assuming that AvrPik evolution has been largely driven by host selection, the co-evolutionary stepwise relationships between AvrPik and Pik was established. The experimental validation of stepwise mutation is required for the development of sustainable management strategies against plant disease.
Genome sequences of several economically important phytopathogenic oomycetes have revealed the presence of large families of so-called RXLR effectors. Functional screens have identified RXLR effector repertoires that either compromise or induce plant defense responses. However, limited information is available about the molecular mechanisms underlying the modes of action of these effectors in planta. The perception of highly conserved pathogen- or microbe-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs/MAMPs), such as flg22, triggers converging signaling pathways recruiting MAP kinase cascades and inducing transcriptional re-programming, yielding a generic anti-microbial response. We used a highly synchronizable, pathogen-free protoplast-based assay to identify a set of RXLR effectors from Phytophthora infestans (PiRXLRs), the causal agent of potato and tomato light blight that manipulate early stages of flg22-triggered signaling. Of thirty-three tested PiRXLR effector candidates, eight, called Suppressor of early Flg22-induced Immune response (SFI), significantly suppressed flg22-dependent activation of a reporter gene under control of a typical MAMP-inducible promoter (pFRK1-Luc) in tomato protoplasts. We extended our analysis to Arabidopsis thaliana, a non-host plant species of P. infestans. From the aforementioned eight SFI effectors, three appeared to share similar functions in both Arabidopsis and tomato by suppressing transcriptional activation of flg22-induced marker genes downstream of post-translational MAP kinase activation. A further three effectors interfere with MAMP signaling at, or upstream of, the MAP kinase cascade in tomato, but not in Arabidopsis. Transient expression of the SFI effectors in Nicotiana benthamianaenhances susceptibility to P. infestans and, for the most potent effector, SFI1, nuclear localization is required for both suppression of MAMP signaling and virulence function. The present study provides a framework to decipher the molecular mechanisms underlying the manipulation of host MAMP-triggered immunity (MTI) by P. infestans and to understand the basis of host versus non-host resistance in plants towards P. infestans.
The roots of most land plants can enter a relationship with soil-borne fungi belonging to the phylum Glomeromycota. This symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi belongs to the so-called biotrophic interactions, involving the intracellular accommodation of a microorganism by a living plant cell without causing the death of the host. Although profiling technologies have generated an increasing depository of plant and fungal proteins eligible for sustaining AM accommodation and functioning, a bottleneck exists for their functional analysis as these experiments are difficult to carry out with mycorrhiza. Nonetheless, the expansion of gene-to-phenotype reverse genetic tools, including RNA interference and transposon silencing, have recently succeeded in elucidating some of the plant-related protein candidates. Likewise, despite the ongoing absence of transformation tools for AM fungi, host-induced gene silencing has allowed knockdown of fungal gene expression in planta for the first time, thus unlocking a technological limitation in deciphering the functional pertinence of glomeromycotan proteins during mycorrhizal establishment. This review is thus intended to draw a picture of our current knowledge about the plant and fungal protein actors that have been demonstrated to be functionally implicated in sustaining AM symbiosis mostly on the basis of silencing approaches.
Cytoplasmic plant immune receptors recognize specific pathogen effector proteins and initiate effector-triggered immunity. In Arabidopsis, the immune receptors RPS4 and RRS1 are both required to activate defense to three different pathogens. We show that RPS4 and RRS1 physically associate. Crystal structures of the N-terminal Toll–interleukin-1 receptor/resistance (TIR) domains of RPS4 and RRS1, individually and as a heterodimeric complex (respectively at 2.05, 1.75, and 2.65 angstrom resolution), reveal a conserved TIR/TIR interaction interface. We show that TIR domain heterodimerization is required to form a functional RRS1/RPS4 effector recognition complex. The RPS4 TIR domain activates effector-independent defense, which is inhibited by the RRS1 TIR domain through the heterodimerization interface. Thus, RPS4 and RRS1 function as a receptor complex in which the two components play distinct roles in recognition and signaling.
Upon analysis of phytopathogen genomes it turned out that phytopathogenic microbes typically express dozens (bacteria; Collmer et al., 2009) to hundreds (oomycetes and fungi; Schmidt & Panstruga, 2011) of effector proteins. They often do not share any considerable sequence relatedness to known proteins and therefore can be considered as ‘pioneer proteins’, which renders their functional analysis a formidable task. Nevertheless, owing to the key role effector proteins play in plant–microbe interactions, their molecular analysis lately became very popular and is a flourishing research field. This development, which is evidenced by the substantial increase in literature devoted to ‘effectors’ during the last decade (Fig. 1), has also been appreciated by New Phytologist as documented by the organization of two symposia, in 2009 and 2012, with an emphasis on effectors in plant–microbe interactions (22nd New Phytologist Symposium and 30th New Phytologist Symposium; Lee et al., 2013). Besides proteinaceous effectors, secreted small molecules can also exhibit effector activity. Prominent examples from the phytopathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas syringae comprise syringolin (a proteasome inhibitor) and coronatine (a mimic of the phytohormone jasmonic acid), but also fungal secondary metabolites can have defense-suppressing activities (e.g. host-selective toxins; Tsuge et al., 2013).
In this Virtual Special Issue we compile a number of papers that were published recently in New Phytologist which all deal with various aspects of effector biology, ranging from bacterial to oomycete and fungal as well as nematode effectors. These papers cover effector functions related to suppression of plant immune responses as well as nutrient acquisition and the identification of plant effector targets.
This review focuses on plant peptides involved in defense against pathogen infection and those involved in the regulation of growth and development. Defense peptides, defensins, cyclotides and anti-microbial peptides are compared and contrasted. Signaling peptides are classified according to their major sites of activity. Finally, a network approach to creating an interactomic peptide map is described.
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