13 March 2024

An array of Zymoseptoria tritici effectors suppress plant immune responses

Thynne E, Ali H, Seong K, Abukhalaf M, Guerreiro MA, Flores-Nunez VM, Hansen R, Salman M, Rudd JJ, Kanyuka K, Krasileva KV, Kettles GJ, Stukenbrock EH - BioRxiv, 2024


Zymoseptoria tritici is the most economically significant fungal pathogen of wheat in Europe. However, despite the importance of this pathogen, the molecular interactions between pathogen and host during infection are not well understood. Herein, we describe the use of two libraries of cloned Z. tritici effectors that were screened to identify effector candidates with putative pathogen associated molecular pattern (PAMP) triggered immunity (PTI)-suppressing activity. The effectors from each library were transiently expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana, and expressing leaves were treated with bacterial or fungal PAMPs to assess the effectors’ ability to suppress reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. From these screens, numerous effectors were identified with PTI-suppressing activity. In addition, some effectors were able to suppress cell death responses induced by other Z. tritici secreted proteins. We used structural prediction tools to predict the putative structures of all of the Z. tritici effectors, and used these predictions to examine whether there was enrichment of specific structural signatures among the PTI-suppressing effectors. From among the libraries, multiple members of the killer protein-like 4 (KP4) and killer protein-like 6 (KP6) effector families were identified as PTI-suppressors. This observation is intriguing, as these protein families were previously associated with antimicrobial activity rather than virulence or host manipulation. This data provides mechanistic insight into immune suppression by Z. tritici during infection, and suggests that similar to biotrophic pathogens, this fungus relies on a battery of secreted effectors to suppress host immunity during early phases of colonisation.

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