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Summary

Bacterial flagellin is perceived as a microbe (or pathogen)-associated molecular pattern (MAMP or PAMP) by the extracellular pattern recognition receptors, FLS2 and TLR5, of plants and mammals respectively. Flagellin accidently translocated into mammalian cells by pathogen type III secretion systems (T3SSs) is recognized by nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat receptor NLRC4 as a pattern of pathogenesis and induces a death-associated immune response. The non-pathogen Pseudomonas fluorescens Pf0-1, expressing a Pseudomonas syringae T3SS, and the plant pathogen P. syringae pv. tomato DC3000 were used to seek evidence of an analogous cytoplasmic recognition system for flagellin in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana. Flagellin (FliC) was secreted in culture and translocated into plant cells by the T3SS expressed in Pf0-1 and DC3000 and in their ΔflgGHI flagellar pathway mutants. ΔfliC and ΔflgGHI mutants of Pf0-1 and DC3000 were strongly reduced in elicitation of reactive oxygen species production and in immunity induction as indicated by the ability of challenge bacteria inoculated 6 h later to translocate a type III effector–reporter and to elicit effector-triggered cell death. Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression in N. benthamiana of FliC with or without a eukaryotic export signal peptide, coupled with virus-induced gene silencing of FLS2, revealed no immune response that was not FLS2 dependent. Transiently expressed FliC from DC3000 and Pectobacterium carotovorum did notinduce cell death in N. benthamiana, tobacco or tomato leaves. Flagellin is the major Pseudomonas MAMP perceived by N. benthamiana, and although flagellin secretion through the plant cell wall by the T3SS may partially contribute to FLS2-dependent immunity, flagellin in the cytosol does not elicit immune-associated cell death. We postulate that a death response to translocated MAMPs would produce vulnerability to the many necrotrophic pathogens of plants, such as P. carotovorum, which differ from P. syringae and other (hemi)biotrophic pathogens in benefitting from death-associated immune responses.