Overexpression of a Phytophthora Cytoplasmic CRN Effector Confers Resistance to Disease, Salinity and Drought in Nicotiana benthamiana

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The Crinkler (CRN) effector family is produced by oomycete pathogens and may manipulate host physiological and biochemical events inside host cells. Here, PsCRN161 was identified from Phytophthora sojae based on its broad and strong cell death suppression activities. The effector protein contains two predicted nuclear localization signals and localized to nuclei of plant cells, indicating that it may target plant nuclei to modify host cell physiology and function. The chimeric gene GFP:PsCRN161 driven by the Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter was introduced into Nicotiana benthamiana. The four independent PsCRN161-transgenic lines exhibited increased resistance to two oomycete pathogens (P. parasitica and P. capsici) and showed enhanced tolerance to salinity and drought stresses. Digital gene expression profiling analysis showed that defense-related genes, including ABC transporters, Cyt P450 and receptor-like kinases (RLKs), were significantly up-regulated in PsCRN161-transgenic plants compared with GFP (green fluorescent protein) lines, implying that PsCRN161 expression may protect plants from biotic and abiotic stresses by up-regulation of many defense-related genes. The results reveal previously unknown functions of the oomycete effectors, suggesting that the pathogen effectors could be directly used as functional genes for plant molecular breeding for enhancement of tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses.

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