Candidate Effector Proteins of the Rust Pathogen Melampsora larici-populina Target Diverse Plant Cell Compartments

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2015 Jun;28(6):689-700. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-01-15-0003-R.


Rust fungi are devastating crop pathogens that deliver effector proteins into infected tissues to modulate plant functions and promote parasitic growth. The genome of the poplar leaf rust fungus Melampsora larici-populina revealed a large catalog of secreted proteins, some of which have been considered candidate effectors. Unraveling how these proteins function in host cells is a key to understanding pathogenicity mechanisms and developing resistant plants. In this study, we used an effectoromics pipeline to select, clone, and express 20 candidate effectors in Nicotiana benthamiana leaf cells to determine their subcellular localization and identify the plant proteins they interact with. Confocal microscopy revealed that six candidate effectors target the nucleus, nucleoli, chloroplasts, mitochondria, and discrete cellular bodies. We also used coimmunoprecipitation (coIP) and mass spectrometry to identify 606 N. benthamiana proteins that associate with the candidate effectors. Five candidate effectors specifically associated with a small set of plant proteins that may represent biologically relevant interactors. We confirmed the interaction between the candidate effector MLP124017 and TOPLESS-related protein 4 from poplar by in planta coIP. Altogether, our data enable us to validate effector proteins from M. larici-populina and reveal that these proteins may target multiple compartments and processes in plant cells. It also shows that N. benthamiana can be a powerful heterologous system to study effectors of obligate biotrophic pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Basidiomycota / genetics
  • Basidiomycota / physiology
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genome, Fungal / genetics*
  • Nicotiana / cytology
  • Nicotiana / microbiology*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Populus / microbiology*
  • Protein Transport
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Transgenes


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins