The ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma ziziphi’ effectors SJP1/2 negatively control leaf size by stabilizing the transcription factor ZjTCP2 in jujube

Ma et al. (2024). Journal of Experimental Botany
Names (1)
Ca. Phytoplasma ziziphi
Physiology Plant Science
Abstract Phytoplasmas manipulate host plant development to benefit insect vector colonization and their own invasion. However, the virulence factors and mechanisms underlying small-leaf formation caused by jujube witches’ broom (JWB) phytoplasmas remain largely unknown. Here, effectors SJP1 and SJP2 from JWB phytoplasmas were identified to induce small-leaf formation in jujube (Ziziphus jujuba). In vivo interaction and expression assays showed that SJP1 and SJP2 interacted with and stabilized the transcription factor ZjTCP2. Overexpression of SJP1 and SJP2 in jujube induced ZjTCP2 accumulation. In addition, the abundance of miRNA319f_1 was significantly reduced in leaves of SJP1 and SJP2 transgenic jujube plants and showed the opposite pattern to the expression of its target, ZjTCP2, which was consistent with the pattern in diseased leaves. Overexpression of ZjTCP2 in Arabidopsis promoted ectopic leaves arising from the adaxial side of cotyledons and reduced leaf size. Constitutive expression of the miRNA319f_1 precursor in the 35S::ZjTCP2 background reduced the abundance of ZjTCP2 mRNA and reversed the cotyledon and leaf defects in Arabidopsis. Therefore, these observations suggest that effectors SJP1 and SJP2 induced small-leaf formation, at least partly, by interacting with and activating ZjTCP2 expression both at the transcriptional and the protein level, providing new insights into small-leaf formation caused by phytoplasmas in woody plants.
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