The rice NLR pair Pikp-1/Pikp-2 initiates cell death through receptor cooperation rather than negative regulation.
Plant NLR immune receptors are multidomain proteins that can function as specialized sensor/helper pairs. Paired NLR immune receptors are generally thought to function via negative regulation, where one NLR represses the activity of the second and detection of pathogen effectors relieves this repression to initiate immunity. However, whether this mechanism is common to all NLR pairs is not known. Here, we show that the rice NLR pair Pikp-1/Pikp-2, which confers resistance to strains of the blast pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae (syn. Pyricularia oryzae) expressing the AVR-PikD effector, functions via receptor cooperation, with effector-triggered activation requiring both NLRs to trigger the immune response. To investigate the mechanism of Pikp-1/Pikp-2 activation, we expressed truncated variants of these proteins, and made mutations in previously identified NLR sequence motifs. We found that any domain truncation, in either Pikp-1 or Pikp-2, prevented cell death in the presence of AVR-PikD, revealing that all domains are required for activity. Further, expression of individual Pikp-1 or Pikp-2 domains did not result in cell death. Mutations in the conserved P-loop and MHD sequence motifs in both Pikp-1 and Pikp-2 prevented cell death activation, demonstrating that these motifs are required for the function of the two partner NLRs. Finally, we showed that Pikp-1 and Pikp-2 associate to form homo- and hetero-complexes in planta in the absence of AVR-PikD; on co-expression the effector binds to Pikp-1 generating a tri-partite complex. Taken together, we provide evidence that Pikp-1 and Pikp-2 form a fine-tuned system that is activated by AVR-PikD via receptor cooperation rather than negative regulation.