A GH81-type β-glucan-binding protein facilitates colonization by mutualistic fungi in barley

Cell walls are important interfaces of plant-fungal interactions. Host cell walls act as robust physical and chemical barriers against fungal invaders, making them an essential line of defense. Upon fungal colonization, plants deposit phenolics and callose at the sites of fungal penetration to reinforce their walls and prevent further fungal progression. Alterations in the composition of plant cell walls significantly impact host susceptibility. Furthermore, plants and fungi secrete glycan hydrolases acting on each other’s cell walls. These enzymes release a wide range of sugar oligomers into the apoplast, some of which trigger the activation of host immunity via host surface receptors. Recent characterization of cell walls from plant-colonizing fungi have emphasized the abundance of β-glucans in different cell wall layers, which makes them suitable targets for recognition. To characterize host components involved in immunity against fungi, we performed a protein pull-down with the biotinylated β-glucan laminarin. Thereby, we identified a glycoside hydrolase family 81-type glucan-binding protein (GBP) as the major β-glucan interactor. Mutation of GBP1 and its only paralogue GBP2 in barley led to decreased colonization by the beneficial root endophytes Serendipita indica and S. vermifera, as well as the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus Rhizophagus irregularis. The reduction of symbiotic colonization was accompanied by enhanced responses at the host cell wall. Moreover, GBP mutation in barley also increased resistance to fungal infections in roots and leaves by the hemibiotrophic pathogen Bipolaris sorokiniana and the obligate biotrophic pathogen Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei, respectively. These results indicate that GBP1 is involved in the establishment of symbiotic associations with beneficial fungi, a role that has potentially been appropriated by barley-adapted pathogens.