Transcription activator-like effector protects bacterial endosymbionts from entrapment within fungal hyphae.
As an endosymbiont of the ecologically and medically relevant fungus Rhizopus microsporus, the toxin-producing bacterium Mycetohabitans rhizoxinica faces myriad challenges, such as evading the host's defense mechanisms. However, the bacterial effector(s) that facilitate the remarkable ability of M. rhizoxinica to freely migrate within fungal hyphae have thus far remained unknown. Here, we show that a transcription activator-like (TAL) effector released by endobacteria is an essential symbiosis factor. By combining microfluidics with fluorescence microscopy, we observed enrichment of TAL-deficient M. rhizoxinica in side hyphae. High-resolution live imaging showed the formation of septa at the base of infected hyphae, leading to the entrapment of endobacteria. Using a LIVE/DEAD stain, we demonstrate that the intracellular survival of trapped TAL-deficient bacteria is significantly reduced compared with wild-type M. rhizoxinica, indicative of a protective host response in the absence of TAL proteins. Subversion of host defense in TAL-competent endobacteria represents an unprecedented function of TAL effectors. Our data illustrate an unusual survival strategy of endosymbionts in the host and provide deeper insights into the dynamic interactions between bacteria and eukaryotes.