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The tomato leucine-rich repeat receptor-like kinases SlSERK3A and SlSERK3B have overlapping functions in bacterial and nematode innate immunity.


The Somatic Embryogenesis Receptor Kinase 3 (SERK3)/Brassinosteroid (BR) Insensitive 1-Associated Kinase 1 (BAK1) is required for pattern-triggered immunity (PTI) in Arabidopsis thaliana and Nicotiana benthamiana. Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) has three SlSERK members. Two of them exhibit particularly high levels of sequence similarity to AtSERK3 and, therefore, were named SlSERK3A and SlSERK3B. To characterize a role for SlSERK3A and SlSERK3B in defense, we suppressed each gene individually or co-silenced both using virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) in the tomato cv. Moneymaker. Co-silencing SlSERK3A and SlSERK3B resulted in spontaneous necrotic lesions and reduced sensitivity to exogenous BR treatment. Silencing either SlSERK3A or SlSERK3B resulted in enhanced susceptibility to root knot-nematode and to non-pathogenic Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) DC3000 hrcC indicating that both SlSERK3s are positive regulators of defense. Interestingly, silencing SlSERK3B, but not SlSERK3A, resulted in enhanced susceptibility to the pathogenic strain Pst DC3000 indicating distinct roles for these two SlSERK3 paralogs. SlSERK3A and SlSERK3B are active kinases, localized to the plasma membrane, and interact in vivo with the Flagellin Sensing 2 receptor in a flg22-dependent manner. Complementation of the Atserk3/bak1-4 mutant with either SlSERK3A or SlSERK3B partially rescued the mutant phenotype. Thus, SlSERK3A and SlSERK3B are likely to constitute tomato orthologs of BAK1.

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