Universität Bielefeld, Fakultät für Biologie, Gentechnologie/Mikrobiologie, D-33501 Bielefeld, Germany
The tomato pathogen Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis NCPPB382, causing bacterial wilt and canker, harbors two plasmids, pCM1 (27.5 kb) and pCM2 (72 kb), carrying genes involved in virulence. The region of plasmid pCM2 encoding the pathogenicity locus pat-1 was mapped by deletion analysis and complementation studies to a 1.5-kb BglII/SmaI DNA fragment. Introduction of the pat-1 region into endophytic, plasmid-free isolates of C. michiganensis subsp. michiganensis converted these bacteria into virulent pathogens. Based on the nucleotide sequence of the pat-1 region, an open reading frame (ORF1) can be predicted, coding for a protein of 280 amino acids and 29.7 kDa with homology to serine proteases. Introduction of a frame-shift mutation in ORF1 leads to a loss of the pathogenic phenotype. Northern (RNA) hybridizations identified an 1.5-knt transcript of the pat-1 structural gene. The site of transcription initiation was mapped by primer extension and a typical -10/-35 region was located with significant homology to the consensus Escherichia coli σ70 and Bacillus subtilis σ43 promoters. Downstream of the pat-1 structural gene, a peculiar repetitive sequence motif (pat-1rep) is located, consisting of 20 direct tandem repeats preceded by a run of 14 guanosine residues. DNA sequences homologous to pat-1rep were isolated and characterized from four virulent C. michiganensis subsp. mich-iganensis strains exhibiting a high extent of structural conservation. The deletion of this repetitive sequence reduced virulence significantly but did not lead to a complete loss of the virulence phenotype.