A complex immune response to flagellin epitope variation in commensal communities

Nicholas R. Colaianni, Katarzyna Parys, Ho Seok Lee, Jonathan M. Conway, Nak Hyun Kim, Natalie Edelbacher, Tatiana S. Mucyn, Mathias Madalinski, Theresa F. Law, Corbin D. Jones, Youssef Belkhadir, Jeffery L. Dangl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Immune systems restrict microbial pathogens by identifying “non-self” molecules called microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs). It is unclear how immune responses are tuned to or by MAMP diversity present in commensal microbiota. We systematically studied the variability of commensal peptide derivatives of flagellin (flg22), a MAMP detected by plants. We define substantial functional diversity. Most flg22 peptides evade recognition, while others contribute to evasion by manipulating immunity through antagonism and signal modulation. We establish a paradigm of signal integration, wherein the sequential signaling outputs of the flagellin receptor are separable and allow for reprogramming by commensal-derived flg22 epitope variants. Plant-associated communities are enriched for immune evading flg22 epitopes, but upon physiological stress that represses the immune system, immune-activating flg22 epitopes become enriched. The existence of immune-manipulating epitopes suggests that they evolved to either communicate or utilize the immune system for host colonization and thus can influence commensal microbiota community composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-649.e9
JournalCell Host and Microbe
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 14 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology


  • Ralstonia
  • bacterial evolution
  • community formation
  • flagellin
  • host-microbe interactions
  • ligand-receptor interactions
  • pattern recognition receptors
  • plant immunity
  • plant microbiome
  • receptor antagonism


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