Citrus Research and Education Center, Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, University of Florida, 700 Experiment Station Road, Lake Alfred, FL 33850, U.S.A.
Citrus canker is caused by Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri and is one of the most devastating diseases on citrus plants. To investigate the virulence mechanism of this pathogen, a mutant library of strain 306 containing approximately 22,000 mutants was screened for virulence-deficient mutants in grapefruit (Citrus paradise). Eighty-two genes were identified that contribute to citrus canker symptom development caused by X. citri subsp. citri. Among the 82 identified genes, 23 genes were classified as essential genes, as mutation of these genes caused severe reduction of bacterial growth in M9 medium. The remaining 59 genes were classified as putative virulence-related genes that include 32 previously reported virulence-related genes and 27 novel genes. The 32 known virulence-related genes include genes that are involved in the type III secretion system (T3SS) and T3SS effectors, the quorum-sensing system, extracellular polysaccharide and lipopolysaccharide synthesis, and general metabolic pathways. The contribution to pathogenesis by nine genes (pthA4, trpG, trpC, purD, hrpM, peh-1, XAC1230, XAC1548, and XAC3049) was confirmed by complementation assays. We further validated the mutated genes and their phenotypes by analyzing the EZ-Tn5 insertion copy number using Southern blot analysis. In conclusion, we have significantly advanced our understanding of the putative genetic determinants of the virulence mechanism of X. citri subsp. citri by identifying 59 putative virulence-related genes, including 27 novel genes.