The conserved Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria effector protein XopX is a virulence factor and suppresses host defense in Nicotiana benthamiana

Matthew Metz, Douglas Dahlbeck, Christina Q Morales, Bassem Al Sady, Eszter T Clark, Brian J Staskawicz
Plant Journal 2005, 41 (6): 801-14
Nicotiana benthamiana leaves display a visible plant cell death response when infiltrated with a high titer inoculum of the non-host pathogen, Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria (Xcv). This visual phenotype was used to identify overlapping cosmid clones from a genomic cosmid library constructed from the Xcv strain, GM98-38. Individual cosmid clones from the Xcv library were conjugated into X. campestris pv. campestris (Xcc) and exconjugants were scored for an altered visual high titer inoculation response in N. benthamiana. The molecular characterization of the cosmid clones revealed that they contained a novel gene, xopX, that encodes a 74-kDa type III secretion system (TTSS) effector protein. Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression of XopX in N. benthamiana did not elicit the plant cell death response although detectable XopX protein was produced. Interestingly, the plant cell death response occurred when the xopX Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression construct was co-inoculated with strains of either XcvDeltaxopX or Xcc, both lacking xopX. The co-inoculation complementation of the plant cell death response also depends on whether the Xanthomonas strains contain an active TTSS. Transgenic 35S-xopX-expressing N. benthamiana plants also have the visible plant cell death response when inoculated with the non-xopX-expressing strains XcvDeltaxopX and Xcc. Unexpectedly, transgenic 35S-xopX N. benthamiana plants displayed enhanced susceptibility to bacterial growth of Xcc as well as other non-xopX-expressing Xanthomonas and Pseudomonas strains. This result is also consistent with the increase in bacterial growth on wild type N. benthamiana plants observed for Xcc when XopX is expressed in trans. Furthermore, XopX contributes to the virulence of Xcv on host pepper (Capsicum annuum) and tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum) plants. We propose that the XopX bacterial effector protein targets basic innate immunity in plants, resulting in enhanced plant disease susceptibility.

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