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Beneficial effectors - symbiont-guided plant protection

Patrick Schäfer

Collaborators: Pascal Falter-Braun (Helmholtz Center Munich, Germany), Weixing Shan (Northwest A&F University, China)

Background: Beneficial symbionts (mutualists) and pathogens secrete proteins (termed effectors) for the targeted reprogramming of host signalling as an essential step in colonising host plants. However, the outcome of their effector activities is obviously very different. While the activities of pathogen effectors result in disease outbreaks, effectors from beneficial symbionts might contribute to the beneficial effects observed in colonised plants. Since the mutualist Serendipita indica protects Arabidopsis and all major crops against environmental stress (including drought, heat, pathogen attack) mutualistic S. indica effectors represent a currently untapped resource for sustainable improvement of stress resilience and growth under climate-associated stress in a broad range of plants.

Project: We have identified >100 effectors in the genome of S. indica (S. indica effectors, SIEs) and developed a screening strategy to identify SIEs that enhance stress protection in plants. In addition to comprehensive SIE-Arabidopsis protein interaction network analyses (based on the 13K Arabidopsis space), we phenotyped all SIEs for specific beneficial functions in plant cell and whole plant assays. Based on these screens, we have identified SIEs with various beneficial activities including stress protection against climate stress in Arabidopsis. The aim is to apply SIE-derived activities to decipher the hierarchies and connection of stress signalling in plants. In biochemical, cell and structural biology-based studies, we further elucidate the mode of action of SIEs.

Lab tools / techniques: Protoplast-based phenotyping, protein network studies, biochemical analyses of abiotic/biotic stress assays, non-invasive cell imaging.