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J Bacteriol. Jun 1997; 179(11): 3500–3508.
PMCID: PMC179141

The cyclic AMP receptor protein is the main activator of pectinolysis genes in Erwinia chrysanthemi.


The main virulence factors of the phytopathogenic bacterium Erwinia chrysanthemi are pectinases that cleave pectin, a major constituent of the plant cell wall. Although physiological studies suggested that pectinase production in Erwinia species is subjected to catabolite repression, the direct implication of the cyclic AMP receptor protein (CRP) in this regulation has never been demonstrated. To investigate the role of CRP in pectin catabolism, we cloned the E. chrysanthemi crp gene by complementation of an Escherichia coli crp mutation and then constructed E. chrysanthemi crp mutants by reverse genetics. The carbohydrate fermentation phenotype of the E. chrysanthemi crp mutants is similar to that of an E. coli crp mutant. Furthermore, these mutants are unable to grow on pectin or polygalacturonate as the sole carbon source. Analysis of the nucleotide sequence of the E. chrysanthemi crp gene revealed the presence of a 630-bp open reading frame (ORF) that codes for a protein highly similar to the CRP of E. coli. Using a crp::uidA transcriptional fusion, we demonstrated that the E. chrysanthemi CRP represses its own expression, probably via a mechanism similar to that described for the E. coli crp gene. Moreover, in the E. chrysanthemi crp mutants, expression of pectinase genes (pemA, pelB, pelC, pelD, and pelE) and of genes of the intracellular part of the pectin degradation pathway (ogl, kduI, and kdgT), which are important for inducer formation and transport, is dramatically reduced in induced conditions. In contrast, expression of pelA, which encodes a pectate lyase important for E. chrysanthemi pathogenicity, seems to be negatively regulated by CRP. The E. chrysanthemi crp mutants have greatly decreased maceration capacity in potato tubers, chicory leaves, and celery petioles as well as highly diminished virulence on saintpaulia plants. These findings demonstrate that CRP plays a crucial role in expression of the pectinolysis genes and in the pathogenicity of E. chrysanthemi.

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Selected References

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