The Role of Phytophthora Secreted Effectors in Determining Pathogen Host Range

  • Gaëtan J. A. Thilliez

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In this thesis, I set out to investigate the nature of nonhost resistance responses of Nicotianae sylvestris against Phytophthora capsici and P. infestans. Schulze-Lefert and Panstruga (2011) proposed that the inability of a pathogen to establish infection in nonhost plants could be a feature of the phylogenetic distance between host and nonhost plants. In distantly related plants PAMP triggered immunity is thought to be the major contribution to resistance as effectors are inappropriately attuned to perturb their orthologous plant targets. In contrast, effector triggered immunity (ETI) could be the major contributor to resistance in nonhost plants that are more closely related to the host plants. P. capsici and P. infestans can both infect Solanaceae plants including Solanum lycopersicum and N. benthamiana but both fail to cause disease or complete their life-cycle in N. sylvestris. Based on the hypothesis of Schulze-Lefert and Panstruga (2011), ETI should be contributing towards effective nonhost resistance responses in N. sylvestris against both pathogens. In addition, it is tempting to speculate that N. sylvestris, with a limited availability of functional resistance genes including Nucleotid binding-Leucine rich repeats (NB-LRRs), could be setup to recognise and responds to sequence-related effectors from P. infestans and P. capsici, rather than to have resistance genes that are specifically attuned to either pathogen. I conducted three research strands to test this theory. In Chapter 3 I used MCL clustering to classify 563 P. infestans and 515 P. capsici RXLR effector genes and defined families on the basis of sequence similarity. I found that the P. infestans and P. capsici RXLR complements are mostly species-specific. To investigate the role of ETI in nonhost resistance, 48 P. capsici and 82 P. infestans RXLR were screened for recognition by the nonhost plant N. sylvestris. Using this approach I identified 4 P. infestans and 8 P. capsici effectors that are consistently recognised in N. sylvestris (Chapter 4). Surprisingly, most of the recognised effectors are part of species-specific clusters. In Chapter 5 I established and implemented PathSeq, an enrichment and sequencing tool that facilitates the massively parallel study of naturally occurring diversity of pathogen effectors, including those that are recognised in N. sylvestris. In the same chapter I also used PathSeq and de novo prediction to expand the P. infestans RXLR complement from 563 to 1220 putative effectors.

In this thesis I have shown that P. infestans and P. capsici effector set are diversifying at the sequence level. My data also suggests that ETI might play a part in nonhost resistance of N. sylvestris to P. capsici and P. infestans. Finally I have presented PathSeq, a tool that allows the study of the effectors set in multiple isolates at the time, and this, for a fraction of the cost of a full genome sequencing experiment.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorEdgar Huitema (Supervisor), Ingo Hein (Supervisor), Eleanor Gilroy (Supervisor) & Paul Birch (Supervisor)


  • Nonhost
  • Phytopathology
  • Phytophthora infestans
  • Phytophthora capsici
  • Solanaceae
  • Effectors
  • Avirulence
  • PathSeq
  • Resistance
  • MCL

Cite this