Type III secretion system effector proteins: double agents in bacterial disease and plant defense

Annu Rev Phytopathol. 2004;42:385-414. doi: 10.1146/annurev.phyto.42.040103.110731.


Many phytopathogenic bacteria inject virulence effector proteins into plant cells via a Hrp type III secretion system (TTSS). Without the TTSS, these pathogens cannot defeat basal defenses, grow in plants, produce disease lesions in hosts, or elicit the hypersensitive response (HR) in nonhosts. Pathogen genome projects employing bioinformatic methods to identify TTSS Hrp regulon promoters and TTSS pathway targeting signals suggest that phytopathogenic Pseudomonas, Xanthomonas, and Ralstonia spp. harbor large arsenals of effectors. The Hrp TTSS employs customized cytoplasmic chaperones, conserved export components in the bacterial envelope (also used by the TTSS of animal pathogens), and a more specialized set of TTSS-secreted proteins to deliver effectors across the plant cell wall and plasma membrane. Many effectors can act as molecular double agents that betray the pathogen to plant defenses in some interactions and suppress host defenses in others. Investigations of the functions of effectors within plant cells have demonstrated the plasma membrane and nucleus as subcellular sites for several effectors, revealed some effectors to possess cysteine protease or protein tyrosine phosphatase activity, and provided new clues to the coevolution of bacterium-plant interactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Models, Immunological
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology*
  • Plants / immunology*
  • Plants / parasitology*


  • Bacterial Proteins