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Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2013 Oct;26(10):1115-22. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-02-13-0050-CR.

Harpins, multifunctional proteins secreted by gram-negative plant-pathogenic bacteria.


Harpins are glycine-rich and heat-stable proteins that are secreted through type III secretion system in gram-negative plant-pathogenic bacteria. Many studies show that these proteins are mostly targeted to the extracellular space of plant tissues, unlike bacterial effector proteins that act inside the plant cells. Over the two decades since the first harpin of pathogen origin, HrpN of Erwinia amylovora, was reported in 1992 as a cell-free elicitor of hypersensitive response (HR), diverse functional aspects of harpins have been determined. Some harpins were shown to have virulence activity, probably because of their involvement in the translocation of effector proteins into plant cytoplasm. Based on this function, harpins are now considered to be translocators. Their abilities of pore formation in the artificial membrane, binding to lipid components, and oligomerization are consistent with this idea. When harpins are applied to plants directly or expressed in plant cells, these proteins trigger diverse beneficial responses such as induction of defense responses against diverse pathogens and insects and enhancement of plant growth. Therefore, in this review, we will summarize the functions of harpins as virulence factors (or translocators) of bacterial pathogens, elicitors of HR and immune responses, and plant growth enhancers.

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