Caveats of using bacterial type three secretion assays for validating fungal avirulence effectors in wheat

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Functional characterization of effector proteins of fungal obligate biotrophic pathogens, especially confirmation of avirulence (Avr) properties, has been notoriously difficult, due to the experimental intractability of many of these organisms. Previous studies in wheat have shown promising data suggesting the type III secretion system (T3SS) of bacteria may be a suitable surrogate for delivery and detection of Avr properties of fungal effectors. However, these delivery systems were tested in the absence of confirmed Avr effectors. Here, we tested two previously described T3SS-mediated delivery systems for their suitability when delivering two confirmed Avr effectors from two fungal pathogens of wheat, Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici and Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype tritici. We showed that both effectors (AvrSr50 and AvrRmg8) were unable to elicit a hypersensitive response on wheat seedlings with the corresponding resistance gene when expressed by the Pseudomonas fluorescens Effector to Host Analyser (EtHAn) system. Furthermore, we found the utility of Burkholderia glumae for screening Avr phenotypes is severely limited, as the wild-type strain elicits nonhost cell death in multiple wheat accessions. These results provide valuable insight into the suitability of these systems for screening fungal effectors for Avr properties that may help guide further development of surrogate bacterial delivery systems in wheat.