• A detailed molecular understanding of how oomycete plant pathogens evade disease resistance is essential to inform the deployment of durable resistance (R) genes. • Map-based cloning, transient expression in planta, pathogen transformation and DNA sequence variation across diverse isolates were used to identify and characterize PiAVR2 from potato late blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans. • PiAVR2 is an RXLR-EER effector that is up-regulated during infection, accumulates at the site of haustoria formation, and is recognized inside host cells by potato protein R2. Expression of PiAVR2 in a virulent P. infestans isolate conveys a gain-of-avirulence phenotype, indicating that this is a dominant gene triggering R2-dependent disease resistance. PiAVR2 presence/absence polymorphisms and differential transcription explain virulence on R2 plants. Isolates infecting R2 plants express PiAVR2-like, which evades recognition by R2. PiAVR2 and PiAVR2-like differ in 13 amino acids, eight of which are in the C-terminal effector domain; one or more of these determines recognition by R2. Nevertheless, few polymorphisms were observed within each gene in pathogen isolates, suggesting limited selection pressure for change within PiAVR2 and PiAVR2-like. • Our results direct a search for R genes recognizing PiAVR2-like, which, deployed with R2, may exert strong selection pressure against the P. infestans population.
© 2011 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2011 New Phytologist Trust.