Background: The root lesion nematode Pratylenchus penetrans is a migratory plant-parasitic nematode responsible for economically important losses in a wide number of crops. Despite the importance of P. penetrans, the molecular mechanisms employed by this nematode to promote virulence remain largely unknown.
Results: Here we generated a new and comprehensive esophageal glands-specific transcriptome library for P. penetrans. In-depth analysis of this transcriptome enabled a robust identification of a catalogue of 30 new candidate effector genes, which were experimentally validated in the esophageal glands by in situ hybridization. We further validated the expression of a multifaceted network of candidate effectors during the interaction with different plants. To advance our understanding of the "effectorome" of P. penetrans, we adopted a phylogenetic approach and compared the expanded effector repertoire of P. penetrans to the genome/transcriptome of other nematode species with similar or contrasting parasitism strategies. Our data allowed us to infer plausible evolutionary histories that shaped the effector repertoire of P. penetrans, as well as other close and distant plant-parasitic nematodes. Two remarkable trends were apparent: 1) large scale effector birth in the Pratylenchidae in general and P. penetrans in particular, and 2) large scale effector death in sedentary (endo) plant-parasitic nematodes.
Conclusions: Our study doubles the number of validated Pratylenchus penetrans effectors reported in the literature. The dramatic effector gene gain in P. penetrans could be related to the remarkable ability of this nematode to parasitize a large number of plants. Our data provide valuable insights into nematode parasitism and contribute towards basic understating of the adaptation of P. penetrans and other root lesion nematodes to specific host plants.
Keywords: Esophageal gland cells; Host-pathogen interaction; Pioneer effectors; Root lesion nematodes; Secretome.