Leiden University, Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, Clusius Laboratory, Wassenaarseweg 64, 2333AL Leiden, The Netherlands
We describe the characterization of a novel Tn5lacZ colonization mutant of the efficiently colonizing Pseudomonas fluorescens strain WCS365, mutant strain PCL1210, which is at least 300- to 1,000-fold impaired in colonization of the potato root tip after co-inoculation of potato stem cuttings with a 1:1 mixture of mutant and parental cells. Similarly, the mutant is also impaired in colonization of tomato, wheat, and radish, indicating that the gene involved plays a role in the ability of P. fluorescens WCS365 to colonize a wide range of plant species. A 3.1-kb DNA fragment was found to be able to complement the observed mutation. The nucleotide sequence of the region around the Tn5lacZ insertion showed three open reading frames (ORFs). The transcriptional start site was determined. The operon is preceded by an integration host factor (IHF) binding site consensus sequence whereas no clear −10 and −35 sequences are present. The deduced amino acid sequences of the first two genes of the operon, designated as colR and colS, show strong similarity with known members of two-component regulatory systems. ColR has homology with the response regulators of the OmpR-PhoB subclass whereas ColS, the product of the gene in which the mutation resides, shows similarity to the sensor kinase members of these two-component systems. Hydrophobicity plots show that this hypothetical sensor kinase has two transmembrane domains, as is also known for other sensor kinases. The product of the third ORF, Orf222, shows no homology with known proteins. Only part of the orf222 gene is present in the colonization-complementing, 3.1-kb region, and it therefore does not play a role in complementation. No experimental evidence for a role of the ColR/ ColS two-component system in the suspected colonization traits chemotaxis and transport of exudate compounds could be obtained. The function of this novel two-component system therefore remains to be elucidated. We conclude that colonization is an active process in which an environmental stimulus, through this two-component system, activates a so far unknown trait that is crucial for colonization.