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A TAL effector-like protein of symbiotic Mycetohabitans increases stress tolerance and alters the transcriptome of the fungal host Rhizopus microsporus

By Morgan E. Carter, Sara C.D. Carpenter, Zoƫ E. Dubrow, Mark R. Sabol, Fabio C. Rinaldi, Olga A. Lastovestsky, Stephen Mondo, Teresa E. Pawlowska, Adam Bogdanove

Posted 05 Mar 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.04.968529 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2003857117)

Symbioses of bacteria with fungi have only recently been described and are poorly understood. In the symbiosis of Mycetohabitans (formerly Burkholderia ) rhizoxinica with the fungus Rhizopus microsporus , bacterial type III (T3) secretion is known to be essential. Proteins resembling T3-secreted transcription activator-like (TAL) effectors of plant pathogenic bacteria are encoded in the three sequenced Mycetohabitans spp. genomes. TAL effectors nuclear localize in plants, where they bind and activate genes important in disease. The Burkholderia TAL-like (Btl) proteins bind DNA but lack the N- and C-terminal regions in which TAL effectors harbor their T3 and nuclear localization signals, and activation domain. We characterized a Btl protein, Btl19-13, and found that, despite the structural differences, it can be T3-secreted and can nuclear localize. A btl19-13 gene knockout did not prevent the bacterium from infecting the fungus, but the fungus became less tolerant to cell membrane stress. Btl19-13 did not alter transcription in a plant-based reporter assay, but 15 R. microsporus genes were differentially expressed in comparisons both of the fungus infected with the wildtype bacterium vs the mutant and with the mutant vs. a complemented strain. Southern blotting revealed btl genes in 14 diverse Mycetohabitans isolates. However, banding patterns and available sequences suggest variation, and the btl19-13 phenotype could not be rescued by a btl gene from a different strain. Our findings support the conclusion that Btl proteins are effectors that act on host DNA and play important but varied or possibly host-genotype-specific roles in the M. rhizoxinica - R. microsporus symbiosis.

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