The N terminus of bacterial elongation factor Tu elicits innate immunity in Arabidopsis plants

Gernot Kunze, Cyril Zipfel, Silke Robatzek, Karsten Niehaus, Thomas Boller, Georg Felix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

658 Citations (Scopus)


Innate immunity is based on the recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). Here, we show that elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu), the most abundant bacterial protein, acts as a PAMP in Arabidopsis thaliana and other Brassicaceae. EF-Tu is highly conserved in all bacteria and is known to be N-acetylated in Escherichia coli. Arabidopsis plants specifically recognize the N terminus of the protein, and an N-acetylated peptide comprising the first 18 amino acids, termed elf18, is fully active as inducer of defense responses. The shorter peptide, elf12, comprising the acetyl group and the first 12 N-terminal amino acids, is inactive as elicitor but acts as a specific antagonist for EF-Tu-related elicitors. In leaves of Arabidopsis plants, elf18 induces an oxidative burst and biosynthesis of ethylene, and it triggers resistance to subsequent infection with pathogenic bacteria.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3496-3507
Number of pages12
JournalThe Plant Cell
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004


  • Acetylation
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arabidopsis
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli
  • Ethylenes
  • Flagellin
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptide Elongation Factor Tu
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Plant Diseases
  • Plant Leaves
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary

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