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Site-Directed Disruption of the fimA and fimF Fimbrial Genes of Xylella fastidiosa

June 2003 , Volume 93 , Number  6
Pages  675 - 682

Helene Feil , William S. Feil , John C. Detter , Alexander H. Purcel , and Steven E. Lindow

First and fifth authors: Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley 94720; second and fourth authors: Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley 94729; and third author: Department of Energy, Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, CA 94598

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Accepted for publication 10 January 2003.

Xylella fastidiosa causes Pierce's disease, a serious disease of grape, citrus variegated chlorosis, almond and oleander leaf scorches, and many other similar diseases. Although the complete genome sequences of several strains of this organism are now available, the function of most genes in this organism, especially those conferring virulence, is lacking. Attachment of X. fastidiosa to xylem vessels and insect vectors may be required for virulence and transmission; therefore, we disrupted fimA and fimF, genes encoding the major fimbrial protein FimA and a homolog of the fimbrial adhesin MrkD, to determine their role in the attachment process. Disruption of the fimA and fimF genes in Temecula1 and STL grape strains of X. fastidiosa was obtained by homologous recombination using plasmids pFAK and pFFK, respectively. These vectors contained a kanamycin resistance gene cloned into either the fimA or fimF genes of X. fastidiosa grape strains Temecula1 or STL. Efficiency of transformation was sufficiently high (≈600 transformants per μg of pFFK DNA) to enable selection of rare recombination events. Polymerase chain reaction and Southern blot analyses of the mutants indicated that a double crossover event had occurred exclusively within the fimA and fimF genes, replacing the chromosomal gene with the disrupted gene and abolishing production of the corresponding proteins, FimA or FimF. Scanning electron microscopy revealed that fimbriae size and number, cell aggregation, and cell size were reduced for the FimA¯ or FimF¯ mutants of X. fastidiosa when compared with the parental strain. FimA¯ or FimF¯ mutants of X. fastidiosa remained pathogenic to grapevines, with bacterial populations slightly reduced compared with those of the wild-type X. fastidiosa cells. These mutants maintained their resistance to kanamycin in planta for at least 6 months in the greenhouse.

© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society