Laboratoire de Biologie Moleculaire des Relations Plantes-Microorganismes. INRA-CNRS, BP27, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan Cedex, France
hrp genes, encoding type III secretion machinery, have been shown to be key determinants for pathogenicity in the vascular phytopathogenic bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum GMI1000. Here, we show phenotypes of R. solanacearum mutant strains disrupted in the prhJ, hrpG, or hrpB regulatory genes with respect to root infection and vascular colonization in tomato plants. Tests of bacterial colonization and enumeration in tomato plants, together with microscopic observations of tomato root sections, revealed that these strains display different phenotypes in planta. The phenotype of a prhJ mutant resembles that of the wild-type strain. An hrpB mutant shows reduced infection, colonization, and multiplication ability in planta, and induces a defense reaction similar to a vascular hypersensitive response at one protoxylem pole of invaded plants. In contrast, the hrpG mutant exhibited a wild-type level of infection at secondary root axils, but the ability of the infecting bacteria to penetrate into the vascular cylinder was significantly impaired. This indicates that bacterial multiplication at root infection sites and transit through the endodermis constitute critical stages in the infection process, in which hrpB and hrpG genes are involved. Moreover, our results suggest that the hrpG gene might control, in addition to hrp genes, other functions required for vascular colonization.