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Pyramiding Unmarked Deletions in Ralstonia solanacearum Shows That Secreted Proteins in Addition to Plant Cell-Wall-Degrading Enzymes Contribute to Virulence

December 2005 , Volume 18 , Number  12
Pages  1,296 - 1,305

Huanli Liu , 1 Shuping Zhang , 1 Mark A. Schell , 2 and Timothy P. Denny 1

Departments of 1Plant Pathology and 2Microbiology, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, U.S.A.

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Accepted 25 August 2005.

Ralstonia solanacearum, like many phytopathogenic bacteria, makes multiple extracellular plant cell-wall-degrading enzymes (CWDE), some of which contribute to its ability to cause wilt disease. CWDE and many other proteins are secreted to the milieu via the highly conserved type II protein secretion system (T2SS). R. solanacearum with a defective T2SS is weakly virulent, but it is not known whether this is due to absence of all the CWDE or the loss of other secreted proteins that contribute to disease. These alternatives were investigated by creating mutants of wild-type strain GMI1000 lacking either the T2SS or up to six CWDE and comparing them for virulence on tomato plants. To create unmarked deletions, genomic regions flanking the target gene were polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified, were fused using splice overlap extension PCR, were cloned into a suicide plasmid harboring the sacB counter-selectable marker, and then, were site-specifically introduced into the genome. Various combinations of five deletions (δpehA, δpehB, δpehC, δpme, and δegl) and one inactivated allele (cbhA::aphA-3) resulted in 15 mutants missing one to six CWDE. In soil-drench inoculation assays, virulence of mutants lacking only pectic enzymes (PehA, PehB, PehC, and Pme) was not statistically different from GMI1000, but all the mutants lacking one or both cellulolytic enzymes (Egl or CbhA) wilted plants significantly more slowly than did the wild type. The GMI-6 mutant that lacks all six CWDE was more virulent than the mutant lacking only its two cellulolytic enzymes, and both were significantly more virulent than the T2SS mutant (GMI-D). Very similar results were observed in wounded-petiole inoculation assays, so GMI-6 and GMI-D appear to be less capable of colonizing tomato tissues after invasion. Because the T2SS mutant was much less virulent than the sixfold CWDE mutant, we conclude that other secreted proteins contribute substantially to the ability of R. solanacearum GMI1000 to systemically colonize tomato plants.

© 2005 The American Phytopathological Society