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A Competitive Index Assay Identifies Several Ralstonia solanacearum Type III Effector Mutant Strains with Reduced Fitness in Host Plants

September 2010 , Volume 23 , Number  9
Pages  1,197 - 1,205

Alberto P. Macho,1 Alice Guidot,2 Patrick Barberis,2 Carmen R. Beuzón,1 and Stéphane Genin2

1Instituto de Hortofruticultura Subtropical y Mediterranea, Universidad de Málaga-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IHSM-UMA-CSIC), Depto. Biología Celular, Genética y Fisiología, Campus de Teatinos, Málaga E-29071, Spain; 2Laboratoire des Interactions Plantes Micro-organismes (LIPM), UMR CNRS-INRA 2594/441, F- 31320 Castanet Tolosan, France

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Accepted 29 April 2010.

Ralstonia solanacearum, the causal agent of bacterial wilt, is a soil bacterium which can naturally infect a wide range of host plants through the root system. Pathogenicity relies on a type III secretion system which delivers a large set of approximately 75 type III effectors (T3E) into plant cells. On several plants, pathogenicity assays based on quantification of wilting symptoms failed to detect a significant contribution of R. solanacearum T3E in this process, thus revealing the collective effect of T3E in pathogenesis. We developed a mixed infection-based method with R. solanacearum to monitor bacterial fitness in plant leaf tissues as a virulence assay. This accurate and sensitive assay provides evidence that growth defects can be detected for T3E mutants: we identified 12 genes contributing to bacterial fitness in eggplant leaves and 3 of them were also implicated in bacterial fitness on two other hosts, tomato and bean. Contribution to fitness of several T3E appears to be host specific, and we show that some known avirulence determinants such as popP2 or avrA do provide competitive advantages on some susceptible host plants. In addition, this assay revealed that the efe gene, which directs the production of ethylene by bacteria in plant tissues, and hdfB, involved in the biosynthesis of the secondary metabolite 3-hydroxy-oxindole, are also required for optimal growth in plant leaf tissues.

© 2010 The American Phytopathological Society