The Brassicaceae family displays divergent, shoot-skewed NLR resistance gene expression

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Nucleotide-binding site leucine-rich repeat resistance genes (NLRs) allow plants to detect microbial effectors. We hypothesized that NLR expression patterns could reflect organ-specific differences in effector challenge and tested this by carrying out a meta-analysis of expression data for 1,235 NLRs from 9 plant species. We found stable NLR root/shoot expression ratios within species, suggesting organ-specific hardwiring of NLR expression patterns in anticipation of distinct challenges. Most monocot and dicot plant species preferentially expressed NLRs in roots. In contrast, Brassicaceae species, including oilseed rape and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, were unique in showing NLR expression skewed towards the shoot across multiple phylogenetically distinct groups of NLRs. The Brassicaceae are also outliers in the sense that they have lost the common symbiosis signaling pathway, which enables intracellular infection by root symbionts. While it is unclear if these two events are related, the NLR expression shift identified here suggests that the Brassicaceae may have evolved unique PRRs and antimicrobial root metabolites to substitute for NLR protection. Such innovations in root protection could potentially be exploited in crop rotation schemes or for enhancing root defense systems of non-Brassicaceae crops.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant Physiology
Pages (from-to)1598-1609
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

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