Hirschmanniella oryzae is one of the most devastating nematodes on rice, leading to substantial yield losses. Effector proteins aid the nematode during the infection process by subduing plant defence responses. In this research we characterized two potential H. oryzae effector proteins, chorismate mutase (HoCM) and isochorismatase (HoICM), and investigated their enzymatic activity and their role in plant immunity. Both HoCM and HoICM proved to be enzymatically active in complementation tests in mutant Escherichia coli strains. Infection success by the migratory nematode H. oryzae was significantly higher in transgenic rice lines constitutively expressing HoCM or HoICM. Expression of HoCM, but not HoICM, increased rice susceptibility against the sedentary nematode Meloidogyne graminicola also. Transcriptome and metabolome analyses indicated reductions in secondary metabolites in the transgenic rice plants expressing the potential nematode effectors. The results presented here demonstrate that both HoCM and HoICM suppress the host immune system and that this may be accomplished by lowering secondary metabolite levels in the plant. © 2020 The Authors. Molecular Plant Pathology published by British Society for Plant Pathology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.