bioRxiv: Barragan et al – Predicting hybrid underperformance

RPW8/HR Repeats Predict NLR-dependent Hybrid Performance

Barragan et al., bioRxiv, posted Feb 24, 2019

Hybrid offspring can look very different from their parents, including having greatly increased or decreased fitness. In many plant species, conflicts between divergent elements of the immune system can cause hybrids to express autoimmunity, a generally deleterious syndrome known as hybrid necrosis. We are investigating multiple hybrid necrosis cases in Arabidopsis thaliana that are caused by allele-specific interactions between different variants at two unlinked resistance (R) gene clusters. One is the RESISTANCE TO PERONOSPORA PARASITICA 7 (RPP7) cluster, which encodes an intracellular nucleotide binding site-leucine rich repeat (NLR) immune receptors that confer strain-specific resistance to oomycetes. The other is the RESISTANCE TO POWDERY MILDEW 8 (RPW8)/HOMOLOG OF RPW8 (HR) locus, which encodes atypical resistance proteins that can confer broad-spectrum resistance to filamentous pathogens. There is extensive structural variation in the RPW8/HR cluster, both at the level of gene copy number and at the level of C-terminal protein repeats of unknown function. We demonstrate that the number of RPW8/HR repeats correlate, albeit in a complex manner, with the severity of hybrid necrosis when these alleles are combined with specific RPP7 variants. This observation suggests that gross structural differences, rather than individual amino acid polymorphisms, guide the genetic interaction between RPW8/HR and RPP7 alleles. We discuss these findings in light of the similarity of RPW8/HR proteins with pore-forming toxins, MLKL and HET-S, from mammals and fungi.