Agrobacterium delivers VirE2 protein into host cells via clathrin-mediated endocytosis

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  22 Mar 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 3, e1601528
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601528


Agrobacterium tumefaciens can cause crown gall tumors on a wide range of host plants. As a natural genetic engineer, the bacterium can transfer both single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) [transferred DNA (T-DNA)] molecules and bacterial virulence proteins into various recipient cells. Among Agrobacterium-delivered proteins, VirE2 is an ssDNA binding protein that is involved in various steps of the transformation process. However, it is not clear how plant cells receive the T-DNA or protein molecules. Using a split–green fluorescent protein approach, we monitored the VirE2 delivery process inside plant cells in real time. We observed that A. tumefaciens delivered VirE2 from the bacterial lateral sides that were in close contact with plant membranes. VirE2 initially accumulated on plant cytoplasmic membranes at the entry points. VirE2-containing membranes were internalized through clathrin-mediated endocytosis to form endomembrane compartments. VirE2 colocalized with the early endosome marker SYP61 but not with the late endosome marker ARA6, suggesting that VirE2 escaped from early endosomes for subsequent trafficking inside the cells. Dual endocytic motifs at the carboxyl-terminal tail of VirE2 were involved in VirE2 internalization and could interact with the μ subunit of the plant clathrin-associated adaptor AP2 complex (AP2M). Both the VirE2 cargo motifs and AP2M were important for the transformation process. Because AP2-mediated endocytosis is well conserved, our data suggest that the A. tumefaciens pathogen hijacks conserved endocytic pathways to facilitate the delivery of virulence factors. This might be important for Agrobacterium to achieve both a wide host range and a high transformation efficiency.

  • Agrobacterium
  • host cells
  • VirE2
  • Type IV secretion system
  • Protein delivery
  • protein trafficking
  • endocytosis
  • clathrin
  • AP2
  • cargo motif

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances