A Type I–Secreted, Sulfated Peptide Triggers XA21-Mediated Innate Immunity

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Science  06 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5954, pp. 850-853
DOI: 10.1126/science.1173438

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Bacterial Trigger of Plant Protection

Innate immunity can be rapidly activated to defend a host plant against a microbial pathogen. The rice protein XA21, which is thought to be a cell surface–located receptor with a kinase domain, activates the plant's defenses in response to infection by certain strains of Xanthomonas bacteria. Lee et al. (p. 850) have now identified the bacterial gene that encodes the protein, AvrXA21, to which the plant receptor XA21 responds. The 194–amino acid protein needs to be secreted and sulfated to trigger the rice plant defense responses. Similarities exist between the receptor XA21 and other immune response receptors in both plants and animals.


The rice Xa21 gene confers immunity to most strains of the bacterium Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo). Liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry analysis of biologically active fractions from Xoo supernatants led to the identification of a 194–amino acid protein designated Ax21 (activator of XA21-mediated immunity). A sulfated, 17–amino acid synthetic peptide (axYS22) derived from the N-terminal region of Ax21 is sufficient for activity, whereas peptides lacking tyrosine sulfation are biologically inactive. Using coimmunoprecipitation, we found that XA21 is required for axYS22 binding and recognition. axYS22 is 100% conserved in all analyzed Xanthomonas species, confirming that Ax21 is a pathogen-associated molecular pattern and that XA21 is a pattern recognition receptor.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

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