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Genome-Wide Identification of Genes Regulated by the Rcs Phosphorelay System in Erwinia amylovora

January 2012 , Volume 25 , Number  1
Pages  6 - 17

Dongping Wang,1 Mingsheng Qi,1 Bernarda Calla,1 Schuyler S. Korban,2 Steven J. Clough,1,3 Peter J. A. Cock,4 George W. Sundin,5 Ian Toth,4 and Youfu Zhao1

1Department of Crop Sciences, 2Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, U.S.A.; 3USDA Agricultural Research Service, Urbana, IL 61801, U.S.A.; 4Cellular and Molecular Sciences, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, U. K.; 5Department of Plant Pathology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, U.S.A.

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Accepted 14 September 2011.

The exopolysaccharide amylovoran is one of the major pathogenicity factors in Erwinia amylovora, the causal agent of fire blight of apples and pears. We have previously demonstrated that the RcsBCD phosphorelay system is essential for virulence by controlling amylovoran biosynthesis. We have also found that the hybrid sensor kinase RcsC differentially regulates amylovoran production in vitro and in vivo. To further understand how the Rcs system regulates E. amylovora virulence gene expression, we conducted genome-wide microarray analyses to determine the regulons of RcsB and RcsC in liquid medium and on immature pear fruit. Array analyses identified a total of 648 genes differentially regulated by RcsCB in vitro and in vivo. Consistent with our previous findings, RcsB acts as a positive regulator in both conditions, while RcsC positively controls expression of amylovoran biosynthetic genes in vivo but negatively controls expression in vitro. Besides amylovoran biosynthesis and regulatory genes, cell-wall and cell-envelope (membrane) as well as regulatory genes were identified as the major components of the RcsBC regulon, including many novel genes. We have also demonstrated that transcripts of rcsA, rcsC, and rcsD genes but not the rcsB gene were up-regulated when bacterial cells were grown in minimal medium or following infection of pear fruits compared with those grown in Luria Bertani medium. Furthermore, using the genome of E. amylovora ATCC 49946, a hidden Markov model predicted 60 genes with a candidate RcsB binding site in the intergenic region, 28 of which were identified in the microarray assay. Based on these findings as well as previous reported data, a working model has been proposed to illustrate how the Rcs phosphorelay system regulates virulence gene expression in E. amylovora.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society