Using decoys to expand the recognition specificity of a plant disease resistance protein

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Science  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6274, pp. 684-687
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3436

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Improving plant disease responses

Disease resistance in plants depends on genes that allow them to recognize when they are infected by a pathogen so that they can mount a timely defense response. Unfortunately, pathogens can often overcome endogenous disease resistance genes by evolving new virulence strategies that escape detection. Kim et al. modified the pathogen recognition systems in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to widen its reach. The approach should enable the development of crops with more durable disease resistance and hence reduce pesticide use and increase crop yields.

Science, this issue p. 684


Maintaining high crop yields in an environmentally sustainable manner requires the development of disease-resistant crop varieties. We describe a method to engineer disease resistance in plants by means of an endogenous disease resistance gene from Arabidopsis thaliana named RPS5, which encodes a nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NLR) protein. RPS5 is normally activated when a second host protein, PBS1, is cleaved by the pathogen-secreted protease AvrPphB. We show that the AvrPphB cleavage site within PBS1 can be substituted with cleavage sites for other pathogen proteases, which then enables RPS5 to be activated by these proteases, thereby conferring resistance to new pathogens. This “decoy” approach may be applicable to other NLR proteins and should enable engineering of resistance in plants to diseases for which we currently lack robust genetic resistance.

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