Plant CLAVATA3/ESR-related (CLE) peptides have diverse roles in plant growth and development. Here, we report the isolation and functional characterization of five new CLE genes from the potato cyst nematode Globodera rostochiensis. Unlike typical plant CLE peptides that contain a single CLE motif, four of the five Gr-CLE genes encode CLE proteins with multiple CLE motifs. These Gr-CLE genes were found to be specifically expressed within the dorsal esophageal gland cell of nematode parasitic stages, suggesting a role for their encoded proteins in plant parasitism. Overexpression phenotypes of Gr-CLE genes in Arabidopsis mimicked those of plant CLE genes, and Gr-CLE proteins could rescue the Arabidopsis clv3-2 mutant phenotype when expressed within meristems. A short root phenotype was observed when synthetic GrCLE peptides were exogenously applied to roots of Arabidopsis or potato similar to the overexpression of Gr-CLE genes in Arabidopsis and potato hairy roots. These results reveal that G. rostochiensis CLE proteins with either single or multiple CLE motifs function similarly to plant CLE proteins and that CLE signaling components are conserved in both Arabidopsis and potato roots. Furthermore, our results provide evidence to suggest that the evolution of multiple CLE motifs may be an important mechanism for generating functional diversity in nematode CLE proteins to facilitate parasitism.
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