Department of Plant Pathology, University of California--Davis, Davis 95616, U.S.A.
Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato, the causal agent of bacterial speck of tomato, has recently become an increasing problem in California due to the evolution and prevalence of highly aggressive race 1 strains. In resistant plant genotypes, the type III effectors AvrPto and AvrPtoB are recognized by the tomato proteins Pto and Prf. We investigated the prevalence of avrPto and avrPtoB in strains collected over the last 13 years in California. All race 1 strains retained avrPtoB but did not express AvrPtoB protein at detectable levels in vitro. However, deletion of avrPtoB indicated that this effector protein is still expressed at low levels in race 1 during infection. avrPto was detected in four race 1 strains but a key amino acid polymorphism prevents this new protein from interacting with and eliciting Pto-mediated resistance. Growth curve analyses demonstrate that this new avrPto allele is still functional and can enhance P. syringae virulence on tomato. Multilocus sequence typing was used to resolve phylogenetic relationships and revealed that the majority of race 0 and 1 strains were most closely related to P. syringae T1. Collectively, these data support the hypothesis that existing P. syringae populations evolved to overcome genetic resistance by altering the expression and sequence of avrPto and avrPtoB effectors.