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Mining Novel Effector Proteins from the Esophageal Gland Cells of Meloidogyne incognita

September 2014 , Volume 27 , Number  9
Pages  965 - 974

William B. Rutter,1 Tarek Hewezi,2 Sahar Abubucker,3 Tom R. Maier,1 Guozhong Huang,4 Makedonka Mitreva,3 Richard S. Hussey,4 and Thomas J. Baum1

1Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Iowa State University, Ames 50011, U.S.A.; 2Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 37996-4561, U.S.A.; 3The Genome Center, Department of Genetics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis 63108, U.S.A.; 4Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Athens 30602-7274, U.S.A.

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Accepted 23 May 2014.

Meloidogyne incognita is one of the most economically damaging plant pathogens in agriculture and horticulture. Identifying and characterizing the effector proteins which M. incognita secretes into its host plants during infection is an important step toward finding new ways to manage this pest. In this study, we have identified the cDNAs for 18 putative effectors (i.e., proteins that have the potential to facilitate M. incognita parasitism of host plants). These putative effectors are secretory proteins that do not contain transmembrane domains and whose genes are specifically expressed in the secretory gland cells of the nematode, indicating that they are likely secreted from the nematode through its stylet. We have determined that, in the plant cells, these putative effectors are likely to localize to the cytoplasm. Furthermore, the transcripts of many of these novel effectors are specifically upregulated during different stages of the nematode's life cycle, indicating that they function at specific stages during M. incognita parasitism. The predicted proteins showed little to no homology to known proteins from free-living nematode species, suggesting that they evolved recently to support the parasitic lifestyle. On the other hand, several of the effectors are part of gene families within the M. incognita genome as well as that of M. hapla, which points to an important role that these putative effectors are playing in both parasites. With the discovery of these putative effectors, we have increased our knowledge of the effector repertoire utilized by root-knot nematodes to infect, feed on, and reproduce on their host plants. Future studies investigating the roles that these proteins play in planta will help mitigate the effects of this damaging pest.

© 2014 The American Phytopathological Society