Designer TAL effectors induce disease susceptibility and resistance to Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae in rice.
TAL (transcription activator-like) effectors from Xanthomonas bacteria activate the cognate host genes, leading to disease susceptibility or resistance dependent on the genetic context of host target genes. The modular nature and DNA recognition code of TAL effectors enable custom-engineering of designer TAL effectors (dTALE) for gene activation. However, the feasibility of dTALEs as transcription activators for gene functional analysis has not been demonstrated. Here we report the use of dTALEs, as expressed and delivered by the pathogenic Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo), in revealing the new function of two previously identified disease-related genes and the potential of one developmental gene for disease susceptibility in rice/Xoo interactions. The dTALE gene dTALE-xa27, designed to target the susceptible allele of the resistance gene Xa27, elicited a resistant reaction in the otherwise susceptible rice cultivar IR24. Four dTALE genes were made to induce the four annotated Xa27 homologous genes in rice cultivar Nipponbare, but none of the four induced Xa27-like genes conferred resistance to the dTALE-containing Xoo strains. A dTALE gene was also generated to activate the recessive resistance gene xa13, an allele of the disease susceptibility gene Os8N3 (also named Xa13 or OsSWEET11, a member of sucrose efflux transporter SWEET gene family). The induction of xa13 by the dTALE rendered the resistant rice IRBB13 (xa13/xa13) susceptible to Xoo. Finally, OsSWEET12, an as yet uncharacterized SWEET gene with no corresponding naturally occurring TAL effector identified, conferred susceptibility to the Xoo strains expressing the corresponding dTALE genes. Our results demonstrate that dTALEs can be delivered through the bacterial secretion system to activate genes of interest for functional analysis in plant.