• bacterial pathogens;
  • evolution;
  • plant–pathogen interactions;
  • Pseudomonas syringae;
  • type III secreted effector protein (T3SE);
  • type III secretion system (T3SS);
  • Xanthomonas


II.The type III secretion system and the plant immune system34
III.The evolution of the type III secretion apparatus36
IV.The evolution of type III secreted effectors39
V.The origin of type III secreted effectors41
VI.Conclusion and future directions43


Many bacterial plant pathogens require the type III secretion system (T3SS) and its effector proteins (T3SEs) to invade and extract nutrients from their hosts successfully. While the molecular function of this system is being studied intensively, we know comparatively little about the evolutionary and ecological pressures governing its fate over time, and even less about the detailed mechanisms underlying and driving complex T3SS-mediated coevolutionary dynamics. In this review we summarize our current understanding of how host–pathogen interactions evolve, with a particular focus on the T3SS of bacterial plant pathogens. We explore the evolutionary origins of the T3SS relative to the closely related flagellar system, and investigate the evolutionary pressures on this secretion and translocation apparatus. We examine the evolutionary forces acting on T3SEs, and compare the support for vertical descent with modification of these virulence-associated systems (pathoadaptation) vs horizontal gene transfer. We address the evolutionary origins of T3SEs from the perspective of both the evolutionary mechanisms that generate new effectors, and the mobile elements that may be the source of novel genetic material. Finally, we propose a number of questions raised by these studies, which may serve to guide our thinking about these complex processes.