Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison 53706, U.S.A.
We previously identified a locus that regulates production of polygalacturonase (PG), an extracellular plant cell wall-degrading enzyme important in bacterial wilt of plants caused by Ralstonia (Pseudomonas) solanacearum. The DNA sequence of this locus, called pehSR, was determined and two consecutive open reading frames (ORFs) of 1,905 and 1,680 bp were identified. The amino acid sequences predicted to be encoded by these ORFs are similar to those of regulators of pilin synthesis in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Myxococcus xanthus and to a regulator of flagellin synthesis and adhesion in P. aeruginosa, as well as to other two-component regulators of the NtrB/C subfamily. pehSR mutants produced negligible levels of endo-PG activity, while exo-PG activity was reduced by 50%. Northern (RNA) blot analysis showed that PehSR regulates endo-PG expression at the transcriptional level. pehSR mutants grew normally in culture and in planta but were dramatically reduced in virulence; this loss of virulence was substantially greater than that observed for endo-PG structural gene mutants, suggesting that pehSR regulates additional factors important in virulence. Although pehSR mutants were essentially nonmotile, like the wild-type strain, multiple copies of pehSR conferred motility on the bacterium. Reporter gene studies indicated that pehSR expression increased when bacteria grew in plant tissue, and that the pehSR locus was itself negatively regulated by the global virulence gene regulator PhcA.