A plant immune receptor complex is activated by bacterial effectors that target WRKY transcription factors



  • A plant immune receptor detects two different bacterial effectors via a WRKY domain
  • One pathogen effector PopP2 acetylates lysines and another, AvrRps4 binds the WRKY domain
  • This regulation occurs for other plant WRKY proteins involved in immunity
  • Receptor WRKY domain enables detection of effectors that target such proteins



Defense against pathogens in multicellular eukaryotes depends on intracellular immune receptors, yet surveillance by these receptors is poorly understood. Several plant nucleotide-binding, leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR) immune receptors carry fusions with other protein domains. The Arabidopsis RRS1-R NB-LRR protein carries a C-terminal WRKY DNA binding domain and forms a receptor complex with RPS4, another NB-LRR protein. This complex detects the bacterial effectors AvrRps4 or PopP2 and then activates defense. Both bacterial proteins interact with the RRS1 WRKY domain, and PopP2 acetylates lysines to block DNA binding. PopP2 and AvrRps4 interact with other WRKY domain-containing proteins, suggesting these effectors interfere with WRKY transcription factor-dependent defense, and RPS4/RRS1 has integrated a “decoy” domain that enables detection of effectors that target WRKY proteins. We propose that NB-LRR receptor pairs, one member of which carries an additional protein domain, enable perception of pathogen effectors whose function is to target that domain.