Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Interfamily transfer of a plant pattern-recognition receptor confers broad-spectrum bacterial resistance


Plant diseases cause massive losses in agriculture. Increasing the natural defenses of plants may reduce the impact of phytopathogens on agricultural productivity. Pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs) detect microbes by recognizing conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs)1,2,3. Although the overall importance of PAMP-triggered immunity for plant defense is established2,3, it has not been used to confer disease resistance in crops. We report that activity of a PRR is retained after its transfer between two plant families. Expression of EFR (ref. 4), a PRR from the cruciferous plant Arabidopsis thaliana, confers responsiveness to bacterial elongation factor Tu in the solanaceous plants Nicotiana benthamiana and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), making them more resistant to a range of phytopathogenic bacteria from different genera. Our results in controlled laboratory conditions suggest that heterologous expression of PAMP recognition systems could be used to engineer broad-spectrum disease resistance to important bacterial pathogens, potentially enabling more durable and sustainable resistance in the field.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Eliciting activities of elf18 peptides and EF-Tu from selected phytopathogenic bacteria in A. thaliana.
Figure 2: Transgenic expression of EFR in N. benthamiana and tomato confers elf18 responsiveness.
Figure 3: Transgenic expression of EFR in N. benthamiana confers broad-spectrum bacterial resistance.
Figure 4: Transgenic expression of EFR in tomato confers broad-spectrum bacterial resistance.


  1. Jones, J.D. & Dangl, J.L. The plant immune system. Nature 444, 323–329 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Zipfel, C. Early molecular events in PAMP-triggered immunity. Curr. Opin. Plant Biol. 12, 414–420 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Boller, T. & Felix, G. A renaissance of elicitors: perception of microbe-associated molecular patterns and danger signals by pattern-recognition receptors. Annu. Rev. Plant Biol. 60, 379–406 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Zipfel, C. et al. Perception of the bacterial PAMP EF-Tu by the receptor EFR restricts Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Cell 125, 749–760 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Reaping the benefits: science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture (RS Policy document 11/09) (Royal Society, London, 2009).

  6. Hammond-Kosack, K.E. & Parker, J.E. Deciphering plant-pathogen communication: fresh perspectives for molecular resistance breeding. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 14, 177–193 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Gurr, S.J. & Rushton, P.J. Engineering plants with increased disease resistance: what are we going to express? Trends Biotechnol. 23, 275–282 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Leach, J.E., Vera Cruz, C.M., Bai, J. & Leung, H. Pathogen fitness penalty as a predictor of durability of disease resistance genes. Annu. Rev. Phytopathol. 39, 187–224 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. McDonald, B.A. & Linde, C. Pathogen population genetics, evolutionary potential, and durable resistance. Annu. Rev. Phytopathol. 40, 349–379 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Zipfel, C. et al. Bacterial disease resistance in Arabidopsis through flagellin perception. Nature 428, 764–767 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Li, X. et al. Flagellin induces innate immunity in nonhost interactions that is suppressed by Pseudomonas syringae effectors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 12990–12995 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Hann, D.R. & Rathjen, J.P. Early events in the pathogenicity of Pseudomonas syringae on Nicotiana benthamiana. Plant J. 49, 607–618 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. de Torres, M. et al. Pseudomonas syringae effector AvrPtoB suppresses basal defence in Arabidopsis. Plant J. 47, 368–382 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Wan, J. et al. A LysM receptor-like kinase plays a critical role in chitin signaling and fungal resistance in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 20, 471–481 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Miya, A. et al. CERK1, a LysM receptor kinase, is essential for chitin elicitor signaling in Arabidopsis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104, 19613–19618 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Kaku, H. et al. Plant cells recognize chitin fragments for defense signaling through a plasma membrane receptor. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103, 11086–11091 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Gimenez-Ibanez, S. et al. AvrPtoB Targets the LysM receptor kinase CERK1 to promote bacterial virulence on plants. Curr. Biol. 19, 423–429 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Lee, S.-W. et al. A type I-secreted, sulfated peptide triggers XA21-mediated innate immunity. Science 326, 850–853 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Gimenez-Ibanez, S., Ntoukakis, V. & Rathjen, J. The LysM receptor kinase CERK1 mediates bacterial perception in Arabidopsis. Plant Signal. Behav. 4, 539–541 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Nekrasov, V. et al. Control of the pattern-recognition receptor EFR by an ER protein complex in plant immunity. EMBO J. 28, 3428–3438 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Wang, G.L., Song, W.Y., Ruan, D.L., Sideris, S. & Ronald, P.C. The cloned gene, Xa21, confers resistance to multiple Xanthomonas oryzae pv oryzae isolates in transgenic plants. Mol. Plant Microbe Interact. 9, 850–855 (1996).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Kunze, G. et al. The N terminus of bacterial elongation factor Tu elicits innate immunity in Arabidopsis plants. Plant Cell 16, 3496–3507 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Vinatzer, B. et al. The type III effector repertoire of Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae B728a and its role in survival and disease on host and non-host plants. Mol. Microbiol. 62, 26–44 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Tai, T.H. et al. Expression of the Bs2 pepper gene confers resistance to bacterial spot disease in tomato. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 96, 14153–14158 (1999).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Cui, H., Xiang, T. & Zhou, J.M. Plant immunity: a lesson from pathogenic bacterial effector proteins. Cell. Microbiol. 11, 1453–1461 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Xiang, T. et al. Pseudomonas syringae effector AvrPto blocks innate immunity by targeting receptor kinases. Curr. Biol. 18, 74–80 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Shan, L. et al. Bacterial effectors target the common signalling partner BAK1 to disrupt multiple MAMP receptor-signaling complexes and impede plant immunity. Cell Host Microbe 4, 17–27 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Gohre, V. et al. Plant pattern-recognition receptor FLS2 is directed for degradation by the bacterial ubiquitin ligase AvrPtoB. Curr. Biol. 18, 1824–1832 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Brun, H. et al. Quantitative resistance increases the durability of qualitative resistance to Leptosphaeria maculans in Brassica napus. New Phytol. 185, 285–299 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Fillatti, J.J., Kiser, J., Rose, R. & Comai, L. Efficient transfer of a glyphosate tolerance gene into tomato using a binary Agrobacterium tumefaciens vector. Bio/Technology 5, 726–730 (1987).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. Horsch, R.B. et al. A simple and general method of transferring genes into plants. Science 227, 1229–1231 (1985).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. German, A.M., Kandel-Kfir, M., Swarzberg, D., Matsevitz, T. & Granot, D. A rapid method for the analysis of zygosity in transgenic plants. Plant Sci. 164, 183–187 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. Fradin, E.F. et al. Genetic dissection of Verticillium wilt resistance mediated by tomato Ve1. Plant Physiol. 150, 320–332 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the John Innes Centre Horticultural Services for great plant care; D. Studholme (The Sainsbury Laboratory) for providing the EF-Tu sequence from X. campestris pv. musacearum 4381; S. Humphris, L. Pritchard, P. Birch and I. Toth (Scottish Crop Research Institute) for providing the EF-Tu sequences and extracts from Dickeya dianthicola 3534, P. atrosepticum 1043 and P. carotovorum 193; B. Vinatzer (Virginia Tech), J. Rathjen (The Sainsbury Laboratory) and S. Gelvin (Purdue University) for providing cultures of Pss B728a, Pta 11528 and A. tumefaciens A281, respectively; and S. Kamoun, E. Ward and J. Rathjen for their critical reading of the manuscript. This work was funded by the Two Blades Foundation and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. B.P.H.J.T. is supported by a Vidi grant of the Research Council for Earth and Life Sciences of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and by European Research Area Networks Plant Genomics. The Two Blades Foundation has filed a patent on behalf of inventors J.D.G.J. and C.Z. on the use of EFR to confer broad-spectrum disease resistance in plants.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



S.L., A.R.-C., E.S., N.P., D.D., H.P.E. and G.R. performed experiments and analyzed data. M.S. generated the transgenic plants. B.S. and B.P.H.J.T. contributed ideas, conceived experiments and analyzed data. J.D.G.J. initiated the project and contributed ideas. C.Z. initiated the project, conceived, designed and performed experiments, analyzed data, obtained funding, and wrote the manuscript. All authors commented on the manuscript prior to submission.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cyril Zipfel.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Figures 1–5 (PDF 3678 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lacombe, S., Rougon-Cardoso, A., Sherwood, E. et al. Interfamily transfer of a plant pattern-recognition receptor confers broad-spectrum bacterial resistance. Nat Biotechnol 28, 365–369 (2010).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing