Stepwise artificial evolution of a plant disease resistance gene

J.H. Harris, E.J. Slootweg, A. Goverse, D.C. Baulcombe

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116 Citations (Scopus)


Genes encoding plant nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR) proteins confer dominant resistance to diverse pathogens. The wild-type potato NB-LRR protein Rx confers resistance against a single strain of potato virus X (PVX), whereas LRR mutants protect against both a second PVX strain and the distantly related poplar mosaic virus (PopMV). In one of the Rx mutants there was a cost to the broad-spectrum resistance because the response to PopMV was transformed from a mild disease on plants carrying wild-type Rx to a trailing necrosis that killed the plant. To explore the use of secondary mutagenesis to eliminate this cost of broad-spectrum resistance, we performed random mutagenesis of the N-terminal domains of this broad-recognition version of Rx and isolated four mutants with a stronger response against the PopMV coat protein due to enhanced activation sensitivity. These mutations are located close to the nucleotide-binding pocket, a highly conserved structure that likely controls the “switch” between active and inactive NB-LRR conformations. Stable transgenic plants expressing one of these versions of Rx are resistant to the strains of PVX and the PopMV that previously caused trailing necrosis. We conclude from this work that artificial evolution of NB-LRR disease resistance genes in crops can be enhanced by modification of both activation and recognition phases, to both accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative aspects of disease resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21189-21194
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number52
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • nb-lrr protein
  • tobacco-mosaic-virus
  • rich repeat domains
  • cell-death
  • arabidopsis-thaliana
  • immune receptors
  • coiled-coil
  • hypersensitive response
  • mediated resistance
  • pathogen effectors


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