Time-resolved dual transcriptomics reveal early induced Nicotiana benthamiana root genes and conserved infection-promoting Phytophthora palmivora effectors

14 Aug 2017

BACKGROUND: Plant-pathogenic oomycetes are responsible for economically important losses in crops worldwide. Phytophthora palmivora, a tropical relative of the potato late blight pathogen, causes rotting diseases in many tropical crops including papaya, cocoa, oil palm, black pepper, rubber, coconut, durian, mango, cassava and citrus. Transcriptomics have helped to identify repertoires of host-translocated microbial effector proteins which counteract defenses and reprogram the host in support of infection. As such, these studies have helped in understanding how pathogens cause diseases. Despite the importance of P. palmivora diseases, genetic resources to allow for disease resistance breeding and identification of microbial effectors are scarce. RESULTS: We employed the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana to study the P. palmivora root infections at the cellular and molecular levels. Time-resolved dual transcriptomics revealed different pathogen and host transcriptome dynamics. De novo assembly of P. palmivora transcriptome and semi-automated prediction and annotation of the secretome enabled robust identification of conserved infection-promoting effectors. We show that one of them, REX3, suppresses plant secretion processes. In a survey for early transcriptionally activated plant genes we identified a N. benthamiana gene specifically induced at infected root tips that encodes a peptide with danger-associated molecular features. CONCLUSIONS: These results constitute a major advance in our understanding of P. palmivora diseases and establish extensive resources for P. palmivora pathogenomics, effector-aided resistance breeding and the generation of induced resistance to Phytophthora root infections. Furthermore, our approach to find infection-relevant secreted genes is transferable to other pathogen-host interactions and not restricted to plants.