Structure and activity of proteins from pathogenic fungi Phytophthora eliciting necrosis and acquired resistance in tobacco


Correspondence to J.-C. Pernollet, Laboratoire d'Etude des Protéines, INRA-Versailles, Route de St Cyr, F-78026 Versailles Cedex, France


The phytopathogenic fungi Phytophthora cryptogea and Phytophthora capsici cause systemic leaf necrosis on their non-host tobacco; in culture they release proteins, called cryptogein and capsicein, which elicit similar necrosis. In addition, both proteins protect tobacco against invasion by the pathogen Phytophthora nicotianae, the agent of the tobacco black shank, that is unable to produce such an elicitor. Cryptogein causes visible leaf necrosis starting at about 1 μg/plant, whereas 50-fold as much capsicein is required for the same reaction. Capsicein induces protection even in near absence of leaf necrosis. The activities of both elicitors are eliminated upon pronase digestion. They are proteins of similar Mr (respectively 10323 and 10155) and their complete amino acid sequences were determined. They consist of 98 residues, with some internal repetitions of hexapeptides and heptapeptides. 85% identity was observed between both sequences: only two short terminal regions are heterologous, while the central core is entirely conserved. Secondary structure predictions, hydropathy and flexibility profiles differ only around position 15 and at the C-terminus; these modifications could play a role in the modulation of their biological activities. After a search of the sequence data bases, they appear to be novel proteins.