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Genome Biol. 2014;15(10):492.

Transcriptomic analysis reveals tomato genes whose expression is induced specifically during effector-triggered immunity and identifies the Epk1 protein kinase which is required for the host response to three bacterial effector proteins.

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Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, NY, USA.



Plants have two related immune systems to defend themselves against pathogen attack. Initially,pattern-triggered immunity is activated upon recognition of microbe-associated molecular patterns by pattern recognition receptors. Pathogenic bacteria deliver effector proteins into the plant cell that interfere with this immune response and promote disease. However, some plants express resistance proteins that detect the presence of specific effectors leading to a robust defense response referred to as effector-triggered immunity. The interaction of tomato with Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato is an established model system for understanding the molecular basis of these plant immune responses.


We apply high-throughput RNA sequencing to this pathosystem to identify genes whose expression changes specifically during pattern-triggered or effector-triggered immunity. We then develop reporter genes for each of these responses that will enable characterization of the host response to the large collection of P. s. pv. tomato strains that express different combinations of effectors. Virus-induced gene silencing of 30 of the effector-triggered immunity-specific genes identifies Epk1 which encodes a predicted protein kinase from a family previously unknown to be involved in immunity. Knocked-down expression of Epk1 compromises effector-triggered immunity triggered by three bacterial effectors but not by effectors from non-bacterial pathogens. Epistasis experiments indicate that Epk1 acts upstream of effector-triggered immunity-associated MAP kinase signaling.


Using RNA-seq technology we identify genes involved in specific immune responses. A functional genomics screen led to the discovery of Epk1, a novel predicted protein kinase required for plant defense activation upon recognition of three different bacterial effectors.

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