An ethylene-inducing xylanase (EIX) is a potent elicitor of plant defense responses in specific cultivars of tobacco ( Nicotiana tabacum ) and tomato ( Lycopersicon esculentum ). The LeEix locus in tomatoes was characterized by map-based cloning, which led to the identification of a novel gene cluster from which two members ( LeEix1 and LeEix2 ) were isolated. Similar to the tomato Ve resistance genes in tomato plants, the deduced amino acid sequences encoded by LeEix1 and LeEix2 contain a Leu zipper, an extracellular Leu-rich repeat domain with glycosylation signals, a transmembrane domain, and a C-terminal domain with a mammalian endocytosis signal. Silencing expression of the LeEix genes prevented the binding of EIX to cells of an EIX-responsive plant and thus inhibited the hypersensitive response. Overexpression of either LeEix1 or LeEix2 genes in EIX-nonresponsive tobacco plants enabled the binding of EIX, although only LeEix2 could transmit the signal that induced the hypersensitive response. Overexpressing LeEix2 in mammalian COS-7 cells enables binding of EIX, indicating physical interaction between the EIX elicitor and LeEix2 gene product. Structural analysis of the LeEix proteins suggests that they belong to a class of cell-surface glycoproteins with a signal for receptor-mediated endocytosis. Mutating the endocytosis signal in LeEix2 (Tyr 993 to Ala) abolished its ability to induce the hypersensitive response, suggesting that endocytosis plays a key role in the signal transduction pathway.
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