Comparative genomics of Verticillium dahliae isolates reveals the in planta-secreted effector protein recognized in V2 tomato plants

Plant pathogens secrete effector molecules during host invasion to promote host colonization. However, some of these effectors become recognized by host receptors, encoded by resistance genes, to mount defense response and establish immunity. Recently, a novel resistance was identified in tomato, mediated by the single dominant V2 locus, to control strains of the soil-borne vascular wilt fungus Verticillium dahliae that belong to race 2.

We performed comparative genomics between race 2 strains and resistance-breaking race 3 strains to identify the avirulence effector that activates V2 resistance, termed Av2. We identified 277 kb of race 2-specific sequence comprising only two genes that encode predicted secreted proteins, both of which are expressed by V. dahliae during tomato colonization. Subsequent functional analysis based on genetic complementation into race 3 isolates confirmed that one of the two candidates encodes the avirulence effector Av2 that is recognized in V2 tomato plants.

The identification of Av2 will not only be helpful to select tomato cultivars that are resistant to race 2 strains of V. dahliae, as the corresponding V2 resistance gene has not yet been mapped, but also to monitor adaptations in the V. dahliae population to deployment of V2-containing tomato cultivars in agriculture.

Authors: Edgar A. Chavarro-Carrero, Jasper P. Vermeulen, David E. Torres, Toshiyuki Usami, Henk J. Schouten, Yuling Bai, Michael F. Seidl, Bart P.H.J. Thomma