When independently evolved immune receptor variants meet in hybrid plants, they can activate immune signaling in the absence of non-self recognition. Such autoimmune risk alleles have recurrently evolved at the DANGEROUS MIX2 (DM2) nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat (NLR)-encoding locus in A. thaliana. One of these activates signaling in the presence of a particular variant encoded at another NLR locus, DM1. We show that the risk variants of DM1 and DM2d NLRs signal through the same pathway that is activated when plant NLRs recognize non-self elicitors. This requires the P loops of each protein and Toll/interleukin-1 receptor (TIR)-domain-mediated heteromeric association of DM1 and DM2d. DM1 and DM2d each resides in a multimeric complex in the absence of signaling, with the DM1 complex shifting to higher molecular weight when heteromerizing DM2 variants are present. The activation of the DM1 complex appears to be sensitive to the conformation of the heteromerizing DM2 variant. Autoimmunity triggered by interaction of this NLR pair thus suggests that activity of heteromeric NLR signaling complexes depends on the sum of activation potentials of partner NLRs.
Keywords: NLR; autoimmunity; epistasis; hybrid incompatibility; plant immune receptors; resistance genes.
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