Biotrophic fungi interacting with plants establish long-term relationships with their hosts to fulfill their life cycles. In contrast to necrotrophs, they need to contend with the defense mechanisms of the plant to develop within the host and feed on living cells. It is generally accepted that microbial pathogens produce and deliver a myriad of effector proteins to hijack the cellular program of their hosts. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are the most widespread biotrophs of plant roots. We investigated whether AM fungi use effector proteins to short-circuit the plant defense program. Here we show that Glomus intraradices secretes a protein, SP7, that interacts with the pathogenesis-related transcription factor ERF19 in the plant nucleus. ERF19 is highly induced in roots by the fungal pathogen Colletotrichum trifolii as well as by several fungal extracts, but only transiently during mycorrhiza colonization. When constitutively expressed in roots, SP7 leads to higher mycorrhization while reducing the levels of C. trifolii-mediated defense responses. Furthermore, expression of SP7 in the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae attenuates root decay symptoms. Taken together, these results suggest that SP7 is an effector that contributes to develop the biotrophic status of AM fungi in roots by counteracting the plant immune program.
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