Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki (1Division of General Microbiology, 2Division of Genetics, 3Institute of Biotechnology), Viikki Biocenter, P.O. Box 56, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland
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Accepted 3 April 2001
The virulence of soft-rot Erwinia species is dependent mainly upon secreted enzymes such as pectinases, pectin lyases, and proteases that cause maceration of plant tissue. Some soft-rot Erwinia spp. also harbor genes homologous to the hypersensitive reaction and pathogenesis (hrp) gene cluster, encoding components of the type III secretion system. The hrp genes are essential virulence determinants for numerous nonmacerating gram-negative plant pathogens but their role in the virulence of soft-rot Erwinia spp. is not clear. We isolated and characterized 11 hrp genes of Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora. Three putative σL-dependent Hrp box promoter sequences were found. The genes were expressed when the bacteria were grown in Hrp-inducing medium. The operon structure of the hrp genes was determined by mRNA hybridization, and the results were in accordance with the location of the Hrp boxes. An E. carotovora strain with mutated hrcC, an essential hrp gene, was constructed. The hrcC¯ strain was able to multiply and cause disease in Arabidopsis, but the population kinetics were altered so that growth was delayed during the early stages of infection.
© 2001 The American Phytopathological Society