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Nat Plants. 2018 Mar;4(3):172-180. doi: 10.1038/s41477-018-0116-y. Epub 2018 Feb 26.

An apoplastic peptide activates salicylic acid signalling in maize.

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Botanical Institute and Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS), University of Cologne, BioCenter, Cologne, Germany.
Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.
Cell Biology and Plant Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.
Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine ITEM, Division of Personalized Tumor Therapy, Regensburg, Germany.
Centre for Medical Biotechnology, Chemical Biology, Faculty of Biology, University Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne, Germany.
Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK.
Botanical Institute and Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS), University of Cologne, BioCenter, Cologne, Germany.


Localized control of cell death is crucial for the resistance of plants to pathogens. Papain-like cysteine proteases (PLCPs) regulate plant defence to drive cell death and protection against biotrophic pathogens. In maize (Zea mays), PLCPs are crucial in the orchestration of salicylic acid (SA)-dependent defence signalling. Despite this central role in immunity, it remains unknown how PLCPs are activated, and which downstream signals they induce to trigger plant immunity. Here, we discover an immune signalling peptide, Z. mays immune signalling peptide 1 (Zip1), which is produced after salicylic acid (SA) treatment. In vitro studies demonstrate that PLCPs are required to release bioactive Zip1 from its propeptide precursor. Conversely, Zip1 treatment strongly elicits SA accumulation in leaves. Moreover, transcriptome analyses revealed that Zip1 and SA induce highly overlapping transcriptional changes. Consequently, Zip1 promotes the infection of the necrotrophic fungus Botrytis cinerea, while it reduces virulence of the biotrophic fungus Ustilago maydis. Thus, Zip1 represents the previously missing signal that is released by PLCPs to activate SA defence signalling.

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