Phytophthora palmivora establishes tissue-specific intracellular infection structures in the earliest divergent land plant lineage.

30 May 2018

The expansion of plants onto land was a formative event that brought forth profound changes to the earth's geochemistry and biota. Filamentous eukaryotic microbes developed the ability to colonize plant tissues early during the evolution of land plants, as demonstrated by intimate, symbiosis-like associations in >400 million-year-old fossils. However, the degree to which filamentous microbes establish pathogenic interactions with early divergent land plants is unclear. Here, we demonstrate that the broad host-range oomycete pathogen Phytophthora palmivora colonizes liverworts, the earliest divergent land plant lineage. We show that P. palmivora establishes a complex tissue-specific interaction with Marchantia polymorpha, where it completes a full infection cycle within air chambers of the dorsal photosynthetic layer. Remarkably, P. palmivora invaginates M. polymorpha cells with haustoria-like structures that accumulate host cellular trafficking machinery and the membrane syntaxin MpSYP13B, but not the related MpSYP13A. Our results indicate that the intracellular accommodation of filamentous microbes is an ancient plant trait that is successfully exploited by pathogens like P. palmivora.