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The Cucurbit Pathogenic Bacterium Acidovorax citrulli Requires a Polar Flagellum for Full Virulence Before and After Host-Tissue Penetration

September 2011 , Volume 24 , Number  9
Pages  1,040 - 1,050

Ofir Bahar, Noam Levi, and Saul Burdman

Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology and The Otto Warburg Minerva Center for Agricultural Biotechnology, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, P. O. Box 12, Rehovot 76100, Israel

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Accepted 2 May 2011.

Acidovorax citrulli causes seedling blight and bacterial fruit blotch of cucurbits. Previous reports demonstrated the contribution of type IV pili (T4P) to A. citrulli virulence and to systemic infection of melon seedlings. Microfluidic flow-chamber assays demonstrated the involvement of T4P in surface adhesion and biofilm formation, whereas polar flagella did not appear to contribute to either of these features. On the other hand, a transposon mutant impaired in the biosynthesis of polar flagella was identified in screens for reduced virulence of an A. citrulli mutant library. Further characterization of polar flagellum mutants confirmed that A. citrulli requires a polar flagellum for full virulence on melon plants. Foliage and stem inoculation experiments revealed that polar flagella contribute to A. citrulli virulence and growth in planta at both pre- and post-host-tissue penetration. Interestingly, light microscope observations revealed that almost all A. citrulli wild-type cells extracted from the xylem sap of stem-inoculated melon seedlings remained motile, supporting the importance of this organelle in virulence and colonization of the host vascular system. We also report a negative effect of polar flagellum impairment on T4P-mediated twitching motility of A. citrulli and discuss a possible co-regulation of these two motility machineries in this bacterium.

© 2011 The American Phytopathological Society