Received: 01 Feb 2021 Revised: 07 Jun 2021 Accepted: 13 Jul 2021 Published online: 01 Oct 2021
Alternaria leaf spot in apple (Malus x domestica), caused by the fungal pathogen Alternaria alternata f. sp. mali (also called A. mali), is a devastating disease resulting in substantial economic losses. We previously established that the resistance (R) protein MdRNL2, containing a coiled-coil, nucleotide-binding, and leucine-rich repeat (CCR-NB-LRR) domain, interacts with another CCR-NB-LRR protein, MdRNL6, to form a MdRNL2–MdRNL6 complex that confers resistance to A. mali. Here, to investigate the function of the MdRNL2–MdRNL6 complex, we identified two novel pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins, MdPR10-1 and MdPR10-2, that interact with MdRNL2. Yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) assays and bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) assays confirmed that MdPR10-1 and MdPR10-2 interact with MdRNL2 and MdRNL6 at the leucine-rich repeat domain. Transient expression assays demonstrated that accumulation of MdPR10-1 and MdPR10-2 enhanced the resistance of apple to four strains of A. mali that we tested: ALT1, GBYB2, BXSB5, and BXSB7. In vitro antifungal activity assays demonstrated that both the proteins contribute to Alternaria leaf spot resistance by inhibiting fungal growth. Our data provide evidence for a novel regulatory mechanism in which MdRNL2 and MdRNL6 interact with MdPR10-1 and MdPR10-2 to inhibit fungal growth, thereby contributing to Alternaria leaf spot resistance in apple. The identification of these two novel PR proteins will facilitate breeding for fungal disease resistance in apple.