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Plant Physiol. 2018 Feb;176(2):1598-1609. doi: 10.1104/pp.17.01606. Epub 2017 Nov 29.

The Brassicaceae Family Displays Divergent, Shoot-Skewed NLR Resistance Gene Expression.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, La Jolla, California 92037.
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark


Nucleotide-binding site leucine-rich repeat resistance genes (NLRs) allow plants to detect microbial effectors. We hypothesized that NLR expression patterns could reflect organ-specific differences in effector challenge and tested this by carrying out a meta-analysis of expression data for 1,235 NLRs from nine plant species. We found stable NLR root/shoot expression ratios within species, suggesting organ-specific hardwiring of NLR expression patterns in anticipation of distinct challenges. Most monocot and dicot plant species preferentially expressed NLRs in roots. In contrast, Brassicaceae species, including oilseed rape (Brassica napus) and the model plant Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), were unique in showing NLR expression skewed toward the shoot across multiple phylogenetically distinct groups of NLRs. The Brassicaceae are also outliers in the sense that they have lost the common symbiosis signaling pathway, which enables intracellular infection by root symbionts. While it is unclear if these two events are related, the NLR expression shift identified here suggests that the Brassicaceae may have evolved unique pattern-recognition receptors and antimicrobial root metabolites to substitute for NLR protection. Such innovations in root protection could potentially be exploited in crop rotation schemes or for enhancing root defense systems of non-Brassicaceae crops.

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