Microbes typically secrete a plethora of molecules to promote niche colonization. Soil-dwelling microbes are well-known producers of antimicrobials that are exploited to outcompete microbial coinhabitants. Also, plant pathogenic microbes secrete a diversity of molecules into their environment for niche establishment. Upon plant colonization, microbial pathogens secrete so-called effector proteins that promote disease development. While such effectors are typically considered to exclusively act through direct host manipulation, we recently reported that the soil-borne, fungal, xylem-colonizing vascular wilt pathogen Verticillium dahliae exploits effector proteins with antibacterial properties to promote host colonization through the manipulation of beneficial host microbiota. Since fungal evolution preceded land plant evolution, we now speculate that a subset of the pathogen effectors involved in host microbiota manipulation evolved from ancient antimicrobial proteins of terrestrial fungal ancestors that served in microbial competition prior to the evolution of plant pathogenicity. Here, we show that V. dahliae has co-opted an ancient antimicrobial protein as effector, named VdAMP3, for mycobiome manipulation in planta. We show that VdAMP3 is specifically expressed to ward off fungal niche competitors during resting structure formation in senescing mesophyll tissues. Our findings indicate that effector-mediated microbiome manipulation by plant pathogenic microbes extends beyond bacteria and also concerns eukaryotic members of the plant microbiome. Finally, we demonstrate that fungal pathogens can exploit plant microbiome-manipulating effectors in a life stage-specific manner and that a subset of these effectors has evolved from ancient antimicrobial proteins of fungal ancestors that likely originally functioned in manipulation of terrestrial biota.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2110968118
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2021


  • Antimicrobial
  • Effector
  • Microbiome
  • Mycobiome
  • Plant pathogenic fungus


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