Multicellular eukaryotes coevolve with microbial pathogens, which exert strong selective pressure on the immune systems of their hosts. Plants and animals use intracellular proteins of the nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich repeat (NLR) superfamily to detect many types of microbial pathogens. The NLR domain architecture likely evolved independently and convergently in each kingdom, and the molecular mechanisms of pathogen detection by plant and animal NLRs have long been considered to be distinct. However, microbial recognition mechanisms overlap, and it is now possible to discern important key trans-kingdom principles of NLR-dependent immune function. Here, we attempt to articulate these principles. We propose that the NLR architecture has evolved for pathogen-sensing in diverse organisms because of its utility as a tightly folded "hair trigger" device into which a virtually limitless number of microbial detection platforms can be integrated. Recent findings suggest means to rationally design novel recognition capabilities to counter disease.
Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.