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PLoS Biol. 2018 Dec 12;16(12):e2005821. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2005821. eCollection 2018 Dec.

Genome-wide functional analyses of plant coiled-coil NLR-type pathogen receptors reveal essential roles of their N-terminal domain in oligomerization, networking, and immunity.

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The Genome Center, University of California-Davis, Davis, California, United States of America.
Department of Bioinformatics and Structural Biochemistry, Institute of Biochemistry of the Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania.
Department of Experimental Design and Bioinformatics, Faculty of Agriculture and Biology, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland.
Departments of Plant Sciences, Molecular & Cellular Biology, and Medical Microbiology & Immunology, University of California-Davis, Davis, California, United States of America.
Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of California-Davis, Davis, California, United States of America.
Molecular Plant Pathology, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


The ability to induce a defense response after pathogen attack is a critical feature of the immune system of any organism. Nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat receptors (NLRs) are key players in this process and perceive the occurrence of nonself-activities or foreign molecules. In plants, coevolution with a variety of pests and pathogens has resulted in repertoires of several hundred diverse NLRs in single individuals and many more in populations as a whole. However, the mechanism by which defense signaling is triggered by these NLRs in plants is poorly understood. Here, we show that upon pathogen perception, NLRs use their N-terminal domains to transactivate other receptors. Their N-terminal domains homo- and heterodimerize, suggesting that plant NLRs oligomerize upon activation, similar to the vertebrate NLRs; however, consistent with their large number in plants, the complexes are highly heterometric. Also, in contrast to metazoan NLRs, the N-terminus, rather than their centrally located nucleotide-binding (NB) domain, can mediate initial partner selection. The highly redundant network of NLR interactions in plants is proposed to provide resilience to perturbation by pathogens.

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