Protein interaction mapping reveals widespread targeting of development-related host transcription factors by phytoplasma effectors.

gold Gold open access

Phytoplasmas are pathogenic bacteria that reprogram plant host development for their own benefit. Previous studies have characterized a few different phytoplasma effector proteins that destabilize specific plant transcription factors. However, these are only a small fraction of the potential effectors used by phytoplasmas; therefore, the molecular mechanisms through which phytoplasmas modulate their hosts require further investigation. To obtain further insights into the phytoplasma infection mechanisms, we generated a protein-protein interaction network between a broad set of phytoplasma effectors and a large, unbiased collection of Arabidopsis thaliana transcription factors and transcriptional regulators. We found widespread, but specific, interactions between phytoplasma effectors and host transcription factors, especially those related to host developmental processes. In particular, many unrelated effectors target specific sets of TCP transcription factors, which regulate plant development and immunity. Comparison with other host-pathogen protein interaction networks shows that phytoplasma effectors have unusual targets, indicating that phytoplasmas have evolved a unique and unusual infection strategy. This study contributes a rich and solid data source that guides further investigations of the functions of individual effectors, as demonstrated for some herein. Moreover, the dataset provides insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms of phytoplasma infection.