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PLoS Pathog. 2014 Jul 24;10(7):e1004227. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004227. eCollection 2014 Jul.

Pto kinase binds two domains of AvrPtoB and its proximity to the effector E3 ligase determines if it evades degradation and activates plant immunity.

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Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.
Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, New York, United States of America; Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.


The tomato--Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst)--pathosystem is one of the best understood models for plant-pathogen interactions. Certain wild relatives of tomato express two closely related members of the same kinase family, Pto and Fen, which recognize the Pst virulence protein AvrPtoB and activate effector-triggered immunity (ETI). AvrPtoB, however, contains an E3 ubiquitin ligase domain in its carboxyl terminus which causes degradation of Fen and undermines its ability to activate ETI. In contrast, Pto evades AvrPtoB-mediated degradation and triggers ETI in response to the effector. It has been reported recently that Pto has higher kinase activity than Fen and that this difference allows Pto to inactivate the E3 ligase through phosphorylation of threonine-450 (T450) in AvrPtoB. Here we show that, in contrast to Fen which can only interact with a single domain proximal to the E3 ligase of AvrPtoB, Pto binds two distinct domains of the effector, the same site as Fen and another N-terminal domain. In the absence of E3 ligase activity Pto binds to either domain of AvrPtoB to activate ETI. However, the presence of an active E3 ligase domain causes ubiquitination of Pto that interacts with the domain proximal to the E3 ligase, identical to ubiquitination of Fen. Only when Pto binds its unique distal domain can it resist AvrPtoB-mediated degradation and activate ETI. We show that phosphorylation of T450 is not required for Pto-mediated resistance in vivo and that a kinase-inactive version of Pto is still capable of activating ETI in response to AvrPtoB. Our results demonstrate that the ability of Pto to interact with a second site distal to the E3 ligase domain in AvrPtoB, and not a higher kinase activity or T450 phosphorylation, allows Pto to evade ubiquitination and to confer immunity to Pst.

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