Bacterial pathogens deliver water- and solute-permeable channels to plant cells.

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Many animal- and plant-pathogenic bacteria use a type III secretion system to deliver effector proteins into host cells1,2. Elucidation of how these effector proteins function in host cells is critical for understanding infectious diseases in animals and plants3-5. The widely conserved AvrE-family effectors, including DspE in Erwinia amylovora and AvrE in Pseudomonas syringae, have a central role in the pathogenesis of diverse phytopathogenic bacteria6. These conserved effectors are involved in the induction of 'water soaking' and host cell death that are conducive to bacterial multiplication in infected tissues. However, the exact biochemical functions of AvrE-family effectors have been recalcitrant to mechanistic understanding for three decades. Here we show that AvrE-family effectors fold into a β-barrel structure that resembles bacterial porins. Expression of AvrE and DspE in Xenopus oocytes results in inward and outward currents, permeability to water and osmolarity-dependent oocyte swelling and bursting. Liposome reconstitution confirmed that the DspE channel alone is sufficient to allow the passage of small molecules such as fluorescein dye. Targeted screening of chemical blockers based on the predicted pore size (15-20 Å) of the DspE channel identified polyamidoamine dendrimers as inhibitors of the DspE/AvrE channels. Notably, polyamidoamines broadly inhibit AvrE and DspE virulence activities in Xenopus oocytes and during E. amylovora and P. syringae infections. Thus, we have unravelled the biochemical function of a centrally important family of bacterial effectors with broad conceptual and practical implications in the study of bacterial pathogenesis.





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Nomura, Kinya, Felipe Andreazza, Jie Cheng, Ke Dong, Pei Zhou and Sheng Yang He (2023). Bacterial pathogens deliver water- and solute-permeable channels to plant cells. Nature, 621(7979). pp. 586–591. 10.1038/s41586-023-06531-5 Retrieved from

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Jennifer Cheng

Research Scholar

Ke Dong

Professor in Biology

Research in the Dong lab centers on the molecular, neuronal and behavioral bases of insect responses to natural/synthetic neuroactive compounds, including pyrethrum and pyrethroid insecticides. We aim to elucidate the mechanisms of action of neuroactive compounds on insect ion channels and receptors and mechanisms of insect resistance to neuroactive chemicals. We are also interested in understanding the physiological functions of various ion channels and receptors, particularly voltage-gated sodium channels, the DSC1 cation channel and odorant receptors, in Drosophila melanogaster (a genetically tractable model) and Aedes aegypti (a major vector of human diseases, such as yellow fever, Dengue and Zika). We take a combination of molecular genetic, neurophysiological, toxicological and behavioral approaches to evaluate the effects of neuroactive compounds at the molecular, cellular and organismal levels. Our goal is to make fundamental discoveries in insect-chemical interactions that impact practical solutions to control disease vectors in the global fight against vector-borne human diseases.


Pei Zhou

Professor of Biochemistry

The Zhou lab focuses on the elucidation of the structure and dynamics of protein–protein and protein–ligand interactions and their functions in various cellular processes. Our current efforts are directed at enzymes and protein complexes involved in bacterial membrane biosynthesis, translesion DNA synthesis, co-transcriptional regulation, and host-pathogen interactions. Our investigations of these important cellular machineries have led to the development of novel antibiotics and cancer therapeutics, as well as the establishment of new biotechnology adventures.


The Zhou lab integrates a variety of biochemical and biophysical tools, including NMR, X-ray crystallography, cryo-EM, and enzymology. The lab has played a major role in the development and application of innovative NMR technologies, including high-resolution, high-dimensional spectral reconstruction techniques.


Sheng-Yang He

Benjamin E. Powell Distinguished Professor of Biology

Interested in the fascinating world of plants, microbes or inter-organismal communication and co-evolution? Please contact Prof. Sheng-Yang He (;

Millions of years of co-evolution between plants and microbes have resulted in an intricate web of attack, counter-attack, decoy, and hijacking mechanisms in biology. Moreover, co-evolution between plants and microbes is greatly impacted by ongoing climate change. In our lab, we probe “host-microbe-climate” interactions to answer the following fundamental questions: (1) How do microbial pathogens infect a susceptible host? (2) How do plants select beneficial microbiomes to ensure health? (3) How do climate conditions impact disease and immunity?      

We use contemporary methods to address these questions, including those commonly used in molecular genetics, genomics, biochemistry, cell biology, bioinformatics, microbiology, plant biology, co-evolution and infectious disease biology.    

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