A natural diversity screen in Arabidopsis thaliana reveals determinants for HopZ1a recognition in the ZAR1-ZED1 immune complex

Plant Cell Environ. 2021 Feb;44(2):629-644. doi: 10.1111/pce.13927. Epub 2020 Nov 22.


Pathogen pressure on hosts can lead to the evolution of genes regulating the innate immune response. By characterizing naturally occurring polymorphisms in immune receptors, we can better understand the molecular determinants of pathogen recognition. ZAR1 is an ancient Arabidopsis thaliana NLR (Nucleotide-binding [NB] Leucine-rich-repeat [LRR] Receptor) that recognizes multiple secreted effector proteins from the pathogenic bacteria Pseudomonas syringae and Xanthomonas campestris through its interaction with receptor-like cytoplasmic kinases (RLCKs). ZAR1 was first identified for its role in recognizing P. syringae effector HopZ1a, through its interaction with the RLCK ZED1. To identify additional determinants of HopZ1a recognition, we performed a computational screen for ecotypes from the 1001 Genomes project that were likely to lack HopZ1a recognition, and tested ~300 ecotypes. We identified ecotypes containing polymorphisms in ZAR1 and ZED1. Using our previously established Nicotiana benthamiana transient assay and Arabidopsis ecotypes, we tested for the effect of naturally occurring polymorphisms on ZAR1 interactions and the immune response. We identified key residues in the NB or LRR domain of ZAR1 that impact the interaction with ZED1. We demonstrate that natural diversity combined with functional assays can help define the molecular determinants and interactions necessary to regulate immune induction in response to pathogens.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; HopZ1a; NLR; Pseudomonas syringae; ZAR1; ZED1; natural diversity; plant immunity; protein-protein interaction; type III secreted effector.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / immunology
  • Arabidopsis / microbiology
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biodiversity
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphotransferases / genetics
  • Phosphotransferases / metabolism*
  • Plant Diseases / immunology*
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Plant Immunity
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Domains
  • Pseudomonas syringae / physiology


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • ZAR1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • ZED1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Phosphotransferases