A recent expansion of the RXLR effector gene Avrblb2 is maintained in global populations of Phytophthora infestans indicating different contributions to virulence

Ricardo F. Oliva, Liliana M. Cano, Sylvain Raffaele, Joe Win, Tolga O. Bozkurt, Khaoula Belhaj, Sang-keun Oh, Marco Thines, Sophien Kamoun

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28 Citations (Scopus)


The introgression of disease resistance (R) genes encoding immunoreceptors with broad-spectrum recognition into cultivated potato appears to be the most promising approach to achieve sustainable management of late blight caused by the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Rpi-blb2 from Solanum bulbocastanum shows great potential for use in agriculture based on preliminary potato disease trials. Rpi-blb2 confers immunity by recognizing the P. infestans avirulence effector protein AVRblb2 after it is translocated inside the plant cell. This effector belongs to the RXLR class of effectors and is under strong positive selection. Structure-function analyses revealed a key polymorphic amino acid (position 69) in AVRblb2 effector that is critical for activation of Rpi-blb2. In this study, we reconstructed the evolutionary history of the Avrblb2 gene family and further characterized its genetic structure in worldwide populations. Our data indicate that Avrblb2 evolved as a single-copy gene in a putative ancestral species of P. infestans and has recently expanded in the Phytophthora spp. that infect solanaceous hosts. As a consequence, at least four variants of AVRblb2 arose in P. infestans. One of these variants, with a Phe residue at position 69, evades recognition by the cognate resistance gene. Surprisingly, all Avrblb2 variants are maintained in pathogen populations. This suggests a potential benefit for the pathogen in preserving duplicated versions of AVRblb2, possibly because the variants may have different contributions to pathogen fitness in a diversified solanaceous host environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-912
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

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