Signatures of adaptation to a monocot host in the plant-parasitic cyst nematode Heterodera sacchari.
Interactions between plant-parasitic nematodes and their hosts are mediated by effectors, i.e. secreted proteins that manipulate the plant to the benefit of the pathogen. To understand the role of effectors in host adaptation in nematodes, we analysed the transcriptome of Heterodera sacchari, a cyst nematode parasite of rice (Oryza sativa) and sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum). A multi-gene phylogenetic analysis showed that H. sacchari and the cereal cyst nematode Heterodera avenae share a common evolutionary origin and that they evolved to parasitise monocot plants from a common dicot-parasitic ancestor. We compared the effector repertoires of H. sacchari with those of the dicot parasites Heterodera glycines and Globodera rostochiensis to understand the consequences of this transition. While, in general, effector repertoires are similar between the species, comparing effectors and non-effectors of H. sacchari and G. rostochiensis shows that effectors have accumulated more mutations than non-effectors. Although most effectors show conserved spatiotemporal expression profiles and likely function, some H. sacchari effectors are adapted to monocots. This is exemplified by the plant-peptide hormone mimics, the CLAVATA3/EMBRYO SURROUNDING REGION-like (CLE) effectors. Peptide hormones encoded by H. sacchari CLE effectors are more similar to those from rice than those from other plants, or those from other plant-parasitic nematodes. We experimentally validated the functional significance of these observations by demonstrating that CLE peptides encoded by H. sacchari induce a short root phenotype in rice, whereas those from a related dicot parasite do not. These data provide a functional example of effector evolution that co-occurred with the transition from a dicot-parasitic to a monocot-parasitic lifestyle.
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/S006397/1)