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Characterization of the RcsC Sensor Kinase from Erwinia amylovora and Other Enterobacteria

June 2011 , Volume 101 , Number  6
Pages  710 - 717

Dongping Wang, Schuyler S. Korban, P. Lawrence Pusey, and Youfu Zhao

First and fourth authors: Department of Crop Sciences, and second author: Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana 61801; and third author: United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service, Tree Fruit Research Laboratory, Wenatchee, WA 98801.

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Accepted for publication 18 January 2011.

RcsC is a hybrid sensor kinase which contains a sensor domain, a histidine kinase domain, and a receiver domain. We have previously demonstrated that, although the Erwinia amylovora rcsC mutant produces more amylovoran than the wild-type (WT) strain in vitro, the mutant remains nonpathogenic on both immature pear fruit and apple plants. In this study, we have comparatively characterized the Erwinia RcsC and its homologs from various enterobacteria. Results demonstrate that expression of the Erwinia rcsC gene suppresses amylovoran production in various amylovoran overproducing WT and mutant strains, thus suggesting the presence of a net phosphatase activity of Erwinia RcsC. Findings have also demonstrated that rcsC homologs from other enterobacteria could not rescue amylovoran production of the Erwinia rcsC mutant in vitro. However, virulence of the Erwinia rcsC mutant is partially restored by rcsC homologs from Pantoea stewartii, Yersinia pestis, and Salmonella enterica but not from Escherichia coli on apple shoots. Domain-swapping experiments have indicated that replacement of the E. coli RcsC sensor domain by those of Erwinia and Yersinia spp. partially restores virulence of the Erwinia rcsC mutant, whereas chimeric constructs containing the sensor domain of E. coli RcsC could not rescue virulence of the Erwinia rcsC mutant on apple. Interestingly, only chimeric constructs containing the histidine kinase and receiver domains of Erwinia RcsC are fully capable of rescuing amylovoran production. These results suggest that the sensor domain of RcsC may be important in regulating bacterial virulence, whereas the activity of the histidine kinase and receiver domains of Erwinia RcsC may be essential for amylovoran production in vitro.

Additional keywords: fire blight, polysaccharide, regulation.

© 2011 The American Phytopathological Society