Parasitic modulation of host development by ubiquitin-independent protein degradation

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Certain obligate parasites induce complex and substantial phenotypic changes in their hosts in ways that favour their transmission to other trophic levels. However, the mechanisms underlying these changes remain largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate how SAP05 protein effectors from insect-vectored plant pathogenic phytoplasmas take control of several plant developmental processes. These effectors simultaneously prolong host lifespan and induce witches broom-like proliferations of leaf and sterile shoots, organs colonized by phytoplasmas and vectors. SAP05 acts by mediating the concurrent degradation of SPL and GATA developmental regulators via a process that relies on hijacking the plant ubiquitin receptor RPN10 independently of substrate ubiquitination. RPN10 is highly conserved among eukaryotes, but SAP05 does not bind insect vector RPN10. A two-amino-acid substitution within plant RPN10 generates a functional variant that is resistant to SAP05 activities. Therefore, one effector protein enables obligate parasitic phytoplasmas to induce a plethora of developmental phenotypes in their hosts.