Verticillium dahliae PevD1, an Alt a 1-like protein, targets cotton PR5-like protein and promotes fungal infection

    Alt a 1 family proteins (AA1s) have only been observed in the Dothideomycetes and Sordariomycetes classes of fungi, and their biological functions have remained poorly understood. Verticillium dahliae, a soil-borne pathogen that causes plant wilt disease, secretes hundreds of  proteins during the process of pathogenic infection, including the AA1 member PevD1. In this study, we found that the pevd1 transcript was present in all of the hosts studied (cotton, Arabidopsis, tomato, and tobacco) and showed elevated expression throughout the infection process. Furthermore, pevd1 knockout mutants displayed attenuated pathogenicity compared with the wild-type (WT) strain and complemented strains in hosts. A partner protein of PevD1, pathogenesis-related protein 5 (PR5)-like protein GhPR5, was isolated from cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) plants by co-purification assays, and the PevD1–GhPR5 interaction was determined to be localized in the C-terminus (PevD1b, amino acids residues 113–155) by pull-down and yeast two-hybrid techniques. Re-introduction of the pevd1b gene into a pevd1 knockout mutant resulted in restoration of the virulence phenotype to WT levels. In addition, PevD1b, which is similar to PevD1, decreased the antifungal activity of GhPR5 in vitro. Our findings reveal an infection strategy in which V. dahliae secretes PevD1 to inhibit GhPR5 antifungal activity in order to overcome the host defence system.