Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66502, U.S.A.
AvrXa7 is a member of the avBs3/pthA gene family and the only known type III secretion system effector gene from Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae with a major contribution to bacterial growth and lesion formation in bacterial blight disease of rice. We examined the general requirement for effectors of the AvrBs3/PthA family in bacterial blight of rice by identifying effectors from diverse strains of the pathogen. Inactivation of single effector genes in representative strains from Japan, Korea, and the Philippines resulted in severely limited growth in plants. Five strains harbored one gene of the avrBs3/pthA family, while one strain had two genes with the equivalent virulence activity of avrXa7. Sequence analysis revealed three genes with unique repeat arrangements in comparison to avrXa7. Comparison of the repetitive regions revealed a potential motif for the group that was also present in the repetitive region of avrBs3. However, the repetitive region of avrBs3 could not support virulence activity but, in combination with the C-terminal coding region of avrXa7, triggered a Xa7-dependent avirulence reaction. The results revealed diverse members of the avrBs3/pthA gene family with virulence activity in X. oryzae pv. oryzae and supported the hypothesis that bacterial blight disease of rice is highly dependent on a single class of type III effectors. The results also indicated that avrXa7 avirulence specificity is separable from virulence activity.