The Phytophthora parasitica effector Avh195 : an antagonist of host autophagy and promoter of the infection cycle

Abstract : The plant pathogen Phytophthora parasitica is an oomycete with devastating impact on both agriculture and natural ecosystems. As a hemi-biotrophic organism it infects the roots of plants first establishing an intimate contact with host cells (biotrophy) before killing them (necrotrophy) and completing its infection cycle. To control these processes, oomycetes secrete effector proteins, which are internalized in plant cells by a translocation motif (called RxLR-EER) to manipulate the physiology and the immune responses of the host. Studies of the molecular exchanges between Phytophthora parasitica and the plant that were conducted by the hosting laboratory led to the identification of an RxLR effector, designed to as Avh195. The amino acid sequence of the effector is characterized by the presence of five AIMs (ATG8 interacting motifs), that indicate a potential interaction with the autophagic core protein, ATG8. Avh195 colocalizes with the membrane-bound fraction of ATG8, and a yeast two-hybrid system, which allows to determine interactions between membrane proteins, confirmed a non-selective interaction between Avh195 and several ATG8 isoforms. The characterization of Avh195-dependent autophagy perturbation was carried out in the unicellular alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii after generation of transgenic lines overexpressing the effector. Analyses by flow cytometry revealed that Avh195 does not modify the physiology and fitness of the alga, both under normal growth conditions and during rapamycin-induced autophagy. Transmission electron microscopy of cells revealed that the effector provokes a delay in the autophagic flux, manifested as a reduced coalescence and clearance of autophagic vacuoles and a strong accumulation of starch in chloroplasts. However, this phenotype was transient and only slightly related to modifications in the transcriptional regulation of the autophagic machinery. The analysis of effector function in planta showed that Avh195 delays the development of hypersensitive cell death, which is triggered by an oomycete elicitor. This cell death-delaying activity is dependent on three out of five AIMs, further consolidating the importance of the Avh195-ATG8 interaction for the function of the effector. The stable overexpression of Avh195 in A. thaliana allowed to determine that the effector does not impair plant defense responses, but overall promotes the development of the pathogen, accelerating the switch from biotrophy to necrotrophy during infection. To our knowledge, the work presented in this thesis represents the first evidence for an oomycete effector to possess a transitory activity, which targets in a non-selective manner the protein ATG8 in different organisms from the green lineage to slow down autophagic flux, thus promoting the hemibiotrophic life style of a pathogen.
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Serena Testi. The Phytophthora parasitica effector Avh195 : an antagonist of host autophagy and promoter of the infection cycle. Molecular biology. Université Côte d'Azur, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018AZUR4087⟩. ⟨tel-02275821⟩

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