The bacterial plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae possesses a type III protein secretion system that delivers many virulence proteins into plant cells. A subset of these proteins (called Avr proteins) is recognized by the plant's innate immune system and triggers defences. One defence-associated response is the hypersensitive response (HR), a programmed cell death (PCD) of plant tissue. We have previously identified HopPtoD2 as a type III secreted protein from P. s. pv. tomato DC3000. Sequence analysis revealed that an N-terminal domain shared homology with AvrPphD and a C-terminal domain was similar to protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs). We demonstrated that purified HopPtoD2 possessed PTP activity and this activity required a conserved catalytic Cys residue (Cys(378)). Interestingly, HopPtoD2 was capable of suppressing the HR elicited by an avirulent P. syringae strain on Nicotiana benthamiana. HopPtoD2 derivatives that lacked Cys(378) no longer suppressed the HR indicating that HR suppression required PTP activity. A constitutively active MAPK kinase, called NtMEK2DD, is capable of eliciting an HR-like cell death when transiently expressed in tobacco. When NtMEK2DD and HopPtoD2 were co-delivered into plant cells, the HR was suppressed indicating that HopPtoD2 acts downstream of NtMEK2DD. DC3000 hopPtoD2 mutants were slightly reduced in their ability to multiply in planta and displayed an enhanced ability to elicit an HR. The identification of HopPtoD2 as a PTP and a PCD suppressor suggests that the inactivation of MAPK pathways is a virulence strategy utilized by bacterial plant pathogens.
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