Tangled gene-for-gene interactions mediate co-evolution of the rice NLR immune receptor Pik and blast fungus effector proteins

Studies focused solely on single organisms can fail to identify the networks underlying host-pathogen gene-for-gene interactions. Here, we integrate genetic analyses of rice (Oryza sativa, host) and rice blast fungus (Magnaporthe oryzae, pathogen) and uncover a new pathogen recognition specificity of the rice nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat protein (NLR) immune receptor Pik, which mediates resistance to M. oryzae expressing the avirulence effector gene AVR-Pik. Rice Piks-1, encoded by an allele of Pik-1, recognizes a previously unidentified effector encoded by the M. oryzae avirulence gene AVR-Mgk1, which is found on a mini-chromosome. AVR-Mgk1 has no sequence similarity to known AVR-Pik effectors, and is prone to deletion from the mini-chromosome mediated by repeated Inago2 retrotransposon sequences. AVR-Mgk1 is detected by Piks-1 and by other Pik-1 alleles known to recognize AVR-Pik effectors; recognition is mediated by AVR-Mgk1 binding to the integrated heavy metal-associated domain of Piks-1 and other Pik-1 alleles. Our findings highlight how complex gene-for-gene interaction networks can be disentangled by applying forward genetics approaches simultaneously to the host and pathogen. We demonstrate dynamic co-evolution between an NLR integrated domain and multiple families of effector proteins.