Phytophthora infestans RXLR effector AVR1 and its host target Sec5

Y. Du

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU



Late blight, caused by the oomycete Phytophthora infestans, is one of the most devastating potato diseases worldwide. To successfully colonize its host, P. infestans secretes a plethora of RXLR effectors that translocate into host cells to modulate plant defense. The RXLR effectors form the largest and most diverse effector family in oomycete plant pathogens, and include several that were demonstrated to trigger host resistance mediated by intracellular host immune receptors. Chapter 1 is a summary focussing on the molecular mechanisms underlying host–pathogen interactions. It introduces the multi-layered innate immune system of plants, as well as the strategies that pathogens exploit to circumvent and suppress host defense. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of vesicle-trafficking during plant defense.

The central subject of this thesis is AVR1, one of the race-specific avirulence (AVR) factors of P. infestans. AVR1 triggers plant resistance mediated by its corresponding potato Nucleotide-binding Leucine-rich repeat (NLR) resistance protein R1. P. infestans isolates that are avirulent on R1-containing potato cultivars always contain AVR1, while virulent isolates lack AVR1 but contain a related gene that we baptized as AVR1-like. AVR1 has all hallmarks of a typical RXLR effector; it contains a signal peptide, an RXLR domain and a C-terminal effector domain that contains two W motifs and one Y motif. In addition, it has, at the very end a stretch of 38 amino acids in length that we named the Tail (T)-region. AVR1-like, or in short A-L, shares high sequence similarity with AVR1. However, due to a premature stop codon the 38 amino acid T-region is missing.

Chapter 2 explores the conserved motifs and regions in the C-terminal effector domain of AVR1 that are required to trigger R1-mediated hypersensitive response (HR). Various truncated and chimeric constructs of AVR1 and A-L were generated and assayed for their ability to elicit R1-mediated HR. Results show that the T-region of AVR1 plays an important role in HR activation. Furthermore, we revealed that R1 recognizes two epitopes in AVR1, one located in the C-terminal region containing the conserved W and Y motifs, and one comprised by the T region.

In Chapter 3 the subcellular localization of AVR1 and R1 was investigated. Both were demonstrated to be nucleocytoplasmic proteins. We artificially modified the nucleocytoplasmic partitioning of AVR1 and R1 using nuclear localization and export signals (NLS/NES), and studied the effect on R1-AVR1 recognition. This revealed that nuclear localization of both AVR1 and R1 is important to induce R1-mediated immunity. In addition, we showed that AVR1-mediated suppression of CRN2-induced cell death is dependent on cytosolic localization of AVR1.

In Chapter 4, we investigated how AVR1 modulates host defense. In a yeast two-hybrid screening we identified the exocyst subunit Sec5 as a host target for AVR1. Interaction between AVR1 and Sec5 was confirmed in planta by co-immunoprecipitation and bimolecular fluorescent complementation. Although A-L shares high sequence similarity with AVR1, we found that it is not able to interact with Sec5. Sec5 was shown to be required for proper plant defense against P. infestans. The role of Sec5 in plant response upon pathogen attack was further supported by its role in callose deposition and in secretion of the pathogenesis-related protein PR-1, which indicates that Sec5 plays a crucial role in vesicle trafficking during host defense. AVR1 is able to suppress callose deposition while A-L is not, which suggests that P. infestans manipulates host vesicle trafficking by secretion of AVR1 to target Sec5. Overall, our findings unravelled a novel strategy that oomycete pathogens exploit in order to modulate host defense.

In Chapter 5 we further analysed the potential virulence activities of AVR1 and A-L. Both AVR1 and A-L were able to promote P. infestans colonization, indicating that both are genuine P. infestans virulence factors. Moreover, AVR1 was found to suppress not only callose deposition, but also Sec5-dependent cell death induced by the P. infestans elicitors INF1 and CRN2. In contrast, A-L was neither able to suppress Sec5-dependent nor Sec5-independent cell death. The conserved C-terminal motifs and regions required for virulence activity of AVR1 were investigated using AVR1 truncated constructs. In addition, the conserved C-terminal motifs and regions of AVR1 required for Sec5 interaction were studied by Y2H assays. Although the T-region of AVR1 was found to be sufficient to facilitate P. infestans colonization and suppression of CRN2-induced cell death, it could not fully accommodate the interaction of AVR1 with Sec5. Instead, both the Y motif and the T-region of AVR1 appear to be required for Sec5 targeting.

Next to Sec5, the role of other exocyst subunits in Phytophthora resistance was studied (Chapter 6). The evolutionary relationships of exocyst subunits from three Solanaceous plants, i.e. Nicotiana benthamiana, tomato and potato, were investigated in comparison to their Arabidopsis orthologs. Virus-induced gene silencing in N. benthamiana of the majority of the exocyst subunit genes (exo84s were not yet included) showed that, except for some Exo70 members, all other tested exocyst subunits are required for plant defense against P. infestans and callose deposition. In addition, all of the analysed exocyst subunit gene-silenced tomato plants showed gain of susceptibility to both P. infestans and Phytophthora capsici.

In Chapter 7, our findings obtained in this thesis on the mechanisms of AVR1-triggered host immunity and susceptibility are discussed in a broader perspective with emphasis on the current developments in the field of effector biology.



Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Govers, Francine, Promotor
  • Bouwmeester, Klaas, Co-promotor
Award date24 Nov 2014
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789462571310
Publication statusPublished - 2014



  • phytophthora infestans
  • oomycota
  • plant pathogenic fungi
  • virulence
  • genes
  • plant-microbe interactions
  • disease resistance
  • defence mechanisms
  • susceptibility
  • gene silencing

Cite this

Du, Y. (2014). Phytophthora infestans RXLR effector AVR1 and its host target Sec5. Wageningen: Wageningen University.