The interaction between Phytophthora pathogens and host plants involves the exchange of complex molecular signals from both sides. Recent studies of Phytophthora have led to the identification of various apoplastic elicitors known to trigger plant immunity. Here, we provide evidence that the protein encoded by OPEL of Phytophthora parasitica is a novel elicitor. Homologues of OPEL were identified only in oomycetes, but not in fungi and other organisms. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) revealed that OPEL is expressed throughout the development of P. parasitica and is especially highly induced after plant infection. Infiltration of OPEL recombinant protein from Escherichia coli into leaves of Nicotiana tabacum (cv. Samsun NN) resulted in cell death, callose deposition, the production of reactive oxygen species and induced expression of pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP)-triggered immunity markers and salicylic acid-responsive defence genes. Moreover, the infiltration conferred systemic resistance against a broad spectrum of pathogens, including Tobacco mosaic virus, the bacteria wilt pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum and P. parasitica. In addition to the signal peptide, OPEL contains three conserved domains: a thaumatin-like domain, a glycine-rich protein domain and a glycosyl hydrolase (GH) domain. Intriguingly, mutation of a putative laminarinase active site motif in the predicted GH domain abolished its elicitor activity, which suggests enzymatic activity of OPEL in triggering the defence response.
Keywords: OPEL; basal immunity; elicitor; laminarinase; systemic acquired resistance.
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