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Role of the Nucleoid-Associated Protein H-NS in the Synthesis of Virulence Factors in the Phytopathogenic Bacterium Erwinia chrysanthemi

January 2001 , Volume 14 , Number  1
Pages  10 - 20

William Nasser , 1 Michel Faelen , 2 Nicole Hugouvieux-Cotte-Pattat , 1 and Sylvie Reverchon 1

1Unité de Microbiologie et Génétique, ERS-CNRS 2009, INSA, Bat 406, 20, Av. A. Einstein, F-69621 Villeurbanne Cedex, France; 2Laboratoire de Génétique, Université Libre de Bruxelles, rue des Chevaux, 67 B-1640 Rhode St Genèse, Belgique

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Accepted 19 September 2000.

The ability of the enterobacterium Erwinia chrysanthemi to induce pathogenesis in plant tissue is strongly related to the massive production of plant-cell-wall-degrading enzymes (pectinases, cellulases, and proteases). Additional factors, including flagellar proteins and exopolysaccharides (EPS), also are required for the efficient colonization of plants. Production of these virulence factors, particularly pectate lyases, the main virulence determinant, is tightly regulated by environmental conditions. The possible involvement of the protein H-NS in this process was investigated. The E. chrysanthemi hns gene was cloned by complementation of an Escherichia coli hns mutation. Its nucleotide sequence contains a 405-bp open reading frame that codes for a protein with 85% identity to the E. coli H-NS protein. An E. chrysanthemi hns mutant was constructed by reverse genetics. This mutant displays a reduced growth rate and motility but an increased EPS synthesis and sensitivity toward high osmolarity. Furthermore, pectate lyase production is dramatically reduced in this mutant. The hns mutation acts on at least two conditions affecting pectate lyase synthesis: induction of pectate lyase synthesis at low temperatures (25°C) is no longer observed in the hns mutant and induction of pectate lyase production occurs in the late stationary growth phase in the hns background, instead of in the late exponential growth phase as it does in the parental strain. Moreover, the E. chrysanthemi hns mutant displays reduced virulence on plants. Taken together, these data suggest that H-NS plays a crucial role in the expression of the virulence genes and in the pathogenicity of E. chrysanthemi.

Additional keyword: regulation.

© 2001 The American Phytopathological Society