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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 20;107(16):7610-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1002910107. Epub 2010 Apr 5.

Tomato Cf resistance proteins mediate recognition of cognate homologous effectors from fungi pathogenic on dicots and monocots.

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Laboratory of Phytopathology, Wageningen University and Research Centre, 6708 PB, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Most fungal effectors characterized so far are species-specific and facilitate virulence on a particular host plant. During infection of its host tomato, Cladosporium fulvum secretes effectors that function as virulence factors in the absence of cognate Cf resistance proteins and induce effector-triggered immunity in their presence. Here we show that homologs of the C. fulvum Avr4 and Ecp2 effectors are present in other pathogenic fungi of the Dothideomycete class, including Mycosphaerella fijiensis, the causal agent of black Sigatoka disease of banana. We demonstrate that the Avr4 homolog of M. fijiensis is a functional ortholog of C. fulvum Avr4 that protects fungal cell walls against hydrolysis by plant chitinases through binding to chitin and, despite the low overall sequence homology, triggers a Cf-4-mediated hypersensitive response (HR) in tomato. Furthermore, three homologs of C. fulvum Ecp2 are found in M. fijiensis, one of which induces different levels of necrosis or HR in tomato lines that lack or contain a putative cognate Cf-Ecp2 protein, respectively. In contrast to Avr4, which acts as a defensive virulence factor, M. fijiensis Ecp2 likely promotes virulence by interacting with a putative host target causing host cell necrosis, whereas Cf-Ecp2 could possibly guard the virulence target of Ecp2 and trigger a Cf-Ecp2-mediated HR. Overall our data suggest that Avr4 and Ecp2 represent core effectors that are collectively recognized by single cognate Cf-proteins. Transfer of these Cf genes to plant species that are attacked by fungi containing these cognate core effectors provides unique ways for breeding disease-resistant crops.

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