Pseudomonas syringae evades host immunity by degrading flagellin monomers with alkaline protease AprA

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2014 Jul;27(7):603-10. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-02-14-0032-R.


Bacterial flagellin molecules are strong inducers of innate immune responses in both mammals and plants. The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa secretes an alkaline protease called AprA that degrades flagellin monomers. Here, we show that AprA is widespread among a wide variety of bacterial species. In addition, we investigated the role of AprA in virulence of the bacterial plant pathogen P. syringae pv. tomato DC3000. The AprA-deficient DC3000 ΔaprA knockout mutant was significantly less virulent on both tomato and Arabidopsis thaliana. Moreover, infiltration of A. thaliana Col-0 leaves with DC3000 ΔaprA evoked a significantly higher level of expression of the defense-related genes FRK1 and PR-1 than did wild-type DC3000. In the flagellin receptor mutant fls2, pathogen virulence and defense-related gene activation did not differ between DC3000 and DC3000 ΔaprA. Together, these results suggest that AprA of DC3000 is important for evasion of recognition by the FLS2 receptor, allowing wild-type DC3000 to be more virulent on its host plant than AprA-deficient DC3000 ΔaprA. To provide further evidence for the role of DC3000 AprA in host immune evasion, we overexpressed the AprA inhibitory peptide AprI of DC3000 in A. thaliana to counteract the immune evasive capacity of DC3000 AprA. Ectopic expression of aprI in A. thaliana resulted in an enhanced level of resistance against wild-type DC3000, while the already elevated level of resistance against DC3000 ΔaprA remained unchanged. Together, these results indicate that evasion of host immunity by the alkaline protease AprA is important for full virulence of strain DC3000 and likely acts by preventing flagellin monomers from being recognized by its cognate immune receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / microbiology*
  • Flagellin / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Lycopersicon esculentum / microbiology*
  • Plant Diseases / immunology
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Pseudomonas syringae / immunology
  • Pseudomonas syringae / physiology*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Virulence Factors / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • Virulence Factors
  • Flagellin
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • microbial serine proteinases