Transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) are virulence factors, produced by the bacterial plant-pathogen Xanthomonas, that function as gene activators inside plant cells. Although the contribution of individual TALEs to infectivity has been shown, the specific roles of most TALEs, and their overall TALE diversity in Xanthomonas spp. is not known. TALEs possess a highly repetitive DNA-binding domain, which is notoriously difficult to sequence. Here, we describe an improved method for characterizing TALE genes by the use of PacBio sequencing. We present 'AnnoTALE', a suite of applications for the analysis and annotation of TALE genes from Xanthomonas genomes, and for grouping similar TALEs into classes. Based on these classes, we propose a unified nomenclature for Xanthomonas TALEs that reveals similarities pinpointing to related functionalities. This new classification enables us to compare related TALEs and to identify base substitutions responsible for the evolution of TALE specificities.
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