1Research Institute for Biological Sciences, Okayama (RIBS), 7549-1 Yoshikawa, Kibichuo-cho, Okayama 716-1241, Japan; 2National Agricultural Research Center, 3-1-1 Kannondai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8666, Japan
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Accepted 17 March 2006.
The Ralstonia solanacearum hrpB-regulated gene lrpE (hpx5/brg24) encodes a PopC-like leucine-rich repeat (LRR) protein that carries 11 tandem LRR in the central region. Defects in the lrpE gene slightly reduced the virulence of R. solanacearum on host plants and changed the bacterial morphology leading to the formation of large aggregates in a minimal medium. The aggregation in the ΔlrpE background required the presence of a functional Hrp type III secretion system. In wild-type R. solanacearum, Hrp pili disappeared from the bacterial surface at the end of the exponential growth phase, when the pili form into long bundles. However, even in the late growth phase, bundled Hrp pili were still observed on the cell surface of the ΔlrpE mutant. Such bundles were entangled and anchored the mutant cells in the aggregates. In contrast to PopC, LrpE accumulated in bacterial cells and did not translocate into plant cells as an effector protein. The expression levels of hrp genes increased three- to fivefold in the ΔlrpE background compared with those in the wild type. We propose that LrpE may negatively regulate the production of Hrp pili on the cell surface of R. solanacearum to disperse bacterial cells from aggregates. In turn, dispersal may contribute to the movement of the pathogen in the plant vascular system and, as a consequence, the pathogenicity of R. solanacearum.
© 2006 The American Phytopathological Society