Function of a mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway in N gene-mediated resistance in tobacco

Plant J. 2003 Feb;33(4):719-31. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.2003.01664.x.


The active defense of plants against pathogens often includes rapid and localized cell death known as hypersensitive response (HR). Protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation are implicated in this event based on studies using protein kinase and phosphatase inhibitors. Recent transient gain-of-function studies demonstrated that the activation of salicylic acid-induced protein kinase (SIPK) and wounding-induced protein kinase (WIPK), two tobacco mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) by their upstream MAPK kinase (MAPKK), NtMEK2 leads to HR-like cell death. Here, we report that the conserved kinase interaction motif (KIM) in MAPKKs is required for NtMEK2 function. Mutation of the conserved basic amino acids in this motif, or the deletion of N-terminal 64 amino acids containing this motif significantly compromised or abolished the ability of NtMEK2DD to activate SIPK/WIPK in vivo. These mutants were also defective in interacting with SIPK and WIPK, suggesting protein-protein interaction is required for the functional integrity of this MAPK cascade. To eliminate Agrobacterium that is known to activate a number of defense responses in transient transformation experiments, we generated permanent transgenic plants. Induction of NtMEK2DD expression by dexamethasone induced HR-like cell death in both T1 and T2 plants. In addition, by using PVX-induced gene silencing, we demonstrated that the suppression of all three known components in the NtMEK2-SIPK/WIPK pathway attenuated N gene-mediated TMV resistance. Together with previous report that SIPK and WIPK are activated by TMV in a gene-for-gene-dependent manner, we conclude that NtMEK2-SIPK/WIPK pathway plays a positive role in N gene-mediated resistance, possibly through regulating HR cell death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Gene Silencing
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 2
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / genetics*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Nicotiana / enzymology
  • Nicotiana / genetics*
  • Nicotiana / virology
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins / genetics*
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins / metabolism
  • Plant Diseases / genetics
  • Plant Diseases / virology
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Potexvirus / growth & development
  • Protein Interaction Mapping
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Tobacco Mosaic Virus / growth & development


  • Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • SA-induced protein kinase
  • WIPK protein, Nicotiana tabacum
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 2
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases