Posttranslational Modifications in Plant Disease Resistance


Under constant attack from an ever‐evolving array of pathogens, the multilayered plant immune system provides a broad‐spectrum resistance that is the result of millions of years of coevolution of plants and microorganisms. Driving the arms race for survival is the continual diversification of defence and attack mechanisms. This process can be rapidly and efficiently achieved by posttranslational modifications (PTMs). Phosphorylation and ubiquitination are important PTMs involved in plant immune signalling that are exploited by pathogens and plants alike. Identified connections between the two PTMs have been shown to either positively or negatively regulate each other, affecting the activity of a growing number of immune proteins. In various instances, this crosstalk has been shown to link the two alleged levels of innate plant immunity: PAMP‐triggered immunity (PTI) and effector‐triggered immunity (ETI). Understanding how this occurs will lead us to unravel the web that is the plant immune signalling interactome.

Key Concepts

  • Natural selection drives the diversification of pathogen virulence and plant resistance mechanisms.
  • Posttranslational modifications are essential for providing rapid and efficient diversification of defence and attack proteins.
  • Phosphorylation and ubiquitination are important posttranslational modifications involved in plant immune signalling.
  • Crosstalk between ubiquitination and phosphorylation regulates plant immune signalling.
  • Crosstalk between ubiquitination and phosphorylation can link different levels of the plant immune system.

Keywords: plant innate immunity; posttranslational modification; phosphorylation; ubiquitination; crosstalk; signalling; plant pathology

Figure 1. Regulation of plant immune signalling through ubiquitination and phosphorylation crosstalk. Upon flg22 perception, FLS2 recruits the LRR‐RK BAK1, causing their autophosphorylation and the displacement of BIK1. Phosphorylated FLS2 mediates the activation of MAPK and CDPK cascades, which in turn activate transcription of defence genes. The host E3s PUB12/13 are recruited and phosphorylated by BAK1 in complex with FLS2, allowing them to polyubiquitinate FLS2 and target it for degradation, dampening the immune response to flg22. The bacterial effector AvrPtoB is secreted through TIIISS into plant cells where it suppresses PTI by ubiquitinating FLS2 and blocking BAK1 association with FLS2, and suppresses ETI by specifically ubiquitinating the R protein Fen. In contrast, AvrPtoB is phosphorylated and inactivated by Fen‐like kinase Pto. R protein SNC1 is regulated by phosphatase MPK1, E3 ligase CRP1 and E1 ligase MOS5, the latter possibly through targeted degradation of MKP1 by an E3 ligase. MKP1 also inactivates members of the MAPK cascade.


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Further Reading

Tanaka S, Brefort T, Neidig N, et al. (2014) A secreted Ustilago maydis effector promotes virulence by targeting anthocyanin biosynthesis in maize. eLife 3: e01355.

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Casey, Milena, Srivastava, Moumita, and Sadanandom, Ari(Jan 2017) Posttranslational Modifications in Plant Disease Resistance. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023736]