Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Okayama University, Tsushima-naka 1-1-1, Kita-ku, Okayama 700-8530 Japan
To investigate the role of type IV pili in the virulence of phytopathogenic bacteria, four mutant strains for pilus biogenesis-related genes were generated in Pseudomonas syringae pv. tabaci 6605. PilA encodes the pilin protein as a major subunit of type IV pili, and the pilO product is reported to be required for pilus assembly. The fimU and fimT genes are predicted to produce minor pilins. Western blot analysis revealed that pilA, pilO, and fimU mutants but not the fimT mutant failed to construct type IV pili. Although the swimming motility of all mutant strains was not impaired in liquid medium, they showed remarkably reduced motilities on semisolid agar medium, suggesting that type IV pili are required for surface motilities. Virulence toward host tobacco plants and hypersensitive response-inducing ability in nonhost Arabidopsis leaves of pilA, pilO, and fimU mutant strains were reduced. These results might be a consequence of reduced expression of type III secretion system-related genes in the mutant strains. Further, all mutant strains showed enhanced expression of resistance-nodulation-division family members mexA, mexB, and oprM, and higher tolerance to antimicrobial compounds. These results indicate that type IV pili are an important virulence factor of this pathogen.