Maize R gene Rxo1 Confers Disease Resistance on Pepper and Nicotiana benthamiana

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Virginia Tech

Pepper is a popular and important vegetable crop grown and consumed worldwide. However, pepper production is threatened by the gram-negative bacterium Xanthomonas euvesicatoria (Xe) which causes bacterial spot (BS) disease, one of the most common and destructive diseases on pepper. Due to limited genetic resistance resources in host species, a promising strategy for controlling BS disease is to transfer nonhost disease resistance (R) genes from other plant species into pepper plants to confer broad-spectrum and durable resistance. A maize R gene Rxo1 has been functionally transferred to rice plants and confers nonhost resistance to rice pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola (Xoc) carrying a type III effector (T3E) AvrRxo1. Most Xe strains carry a T3E Xe4428, a homolog of AvrRxo1. Therefore, Rxo1 could be potentially employed to develop Xe-resistant pepper. In addition, a better understanding of the virulence function of Xe4428 may provide insights into the pathogenesis of Xe and new strategies for crop improvement. In this dissertation, we transformed Rxo1 into the far-related dicot species Nicotiana benthamiana and pepper, and characterized the Rxo1-mediated disease resistance against Xe strains carrying AvrRxo1 or Xe4428. In addition, we explored the virulence function and mechanism of Xe4428. In the Rxo1-transgenic N. benthamiana, we demonstrated that Rxo1 could condition resistance to Xe harboring AvrRxo1 but not Xe4428. We revealed that AvrRxo1 could directly interact with the nucleotide-binding domain of Rxo1 in vivo and in vitro. We further demonstrated that the nucleus localization of AvrRxo1 was required for its avirulence and virulence functions. In addition, the cytosol localization of Rxo1 was also necessary to confer disease resistance. The downstream signaling component NbNDR1 was demonstrated to be involved in Rxo1/AvrRxo1-mediated disease resistance. By RNAseq-based gene expression profiling, we identified six candidate genes of interest up-regulated by the Rxo1-AvrRxo1 recognition. Through virus-induced gene silencing screening, a gene encoding phenylalanine ammonia-lyase 4 was demonstrated to be critical for Rxo1/AvrRxo1-mediated disease resistance in N. benthamiana. Rxo1-transgenic pepper plants were resistant to the Xe strain with the complementary Xoc effector AvrRxo1 but not the wild-type Xe strain that carries Xe4428. A Xe4428 mutant with only one nucleotide substitution could trigger the Rxo1-mediated disease resistance in pepper. Both wild-type and mutant Xe4428 had significant virulence functions that could promote the Xe bacterial proliferation on wild-type pepper plants. In addition, the mutant Xe4428 had a higher expression level than wild-type Xe4428 in Xe bacterial cells, which might explain why the mutant Xe4428 but not wild-type Xe4428, could trigger the Rxo1-mediated disease resistance in pepper. We identified 14 pepper cystatin genes (CaCys), among which two genes (CaCys1 and CaCys13) could be induced, and two genes (CaCys3 and CaCys5) were suppressed by Xe4428. Ectopically expressing one of the induced genes CaCys1 in N. benthamiana increased the stomatal opening and promoted the Xe growth in N. benthamiana plants. Thus, we illuminate one possible mechanism of Xe4428's virulence function is to regulate the stomata apertures in N. benthamiana. Bacterial fruit blotch (BFB) caused by the gram-negative bacterial pathogen Acidovorax citrulli (A. citrulli) is one of the most destructive diseases in cucurbit crops, including melon and watermelon. A better understanding of the virulence and avirulence functions of T3Es in A. citrulli helps breeders engineer crop resistance to BFB. To this end, a clean genetic background of A. citrulli with multiple effector genes deleted is desired. Here, we optimized a marker-exchange-based method for sequential effector deletion and generated an AAC00-1 mutant with five effector genes (Aave2166, Aave3626, Aave1548, Aave2938, Aave2708) deleted (AAC00-15). AAC00-15 was less virulent in watermelon but more virulent in N. benthamiana. Through complementation, we characterized the function of individual effectors and identified a promising R gene, Roq1, that could be used to control BFB disease.

Xanthomonas euvesicatoria, Rxo1, AvrRxo1, Xe4428, inter-species R gene transfer, Type III effector functions