Parasitic plants are a constraint on agriculture worldwide. Cuscuta reflexa is a stem holoparasite that infests most dicotyledonous plants. One exception is tomato, which is resistant to C. reflexa We discovered that tomato responds to a small peptide factor occurring in Cuscuta spp. with immune responses typically activated after perception of microbe-associated molecular patterns. We identified the cell surface receptor-like protein CUSCUTA RECEPTOR 1 (CuRe1) as essential for the perception of this parasite-associated molecular pattern. CuRe1 is sufficient to confer responsiveness to the Cuscuta factor and increased resistance to parasitic C. reflexa when heterologously expressed in otherwise susceptible host plants. Our findings reveal that plants recognize parasitic plants in a manner similar to perception of microbial pathogens.
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