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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Feb;39(4):960-72.

SoxR-dependent response to oxidative stress and virulence of Erwinia chrysanthemi: the key role of SufC, an orphan ABC ATPase.

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Laboratoire de Chimie Bactérienne, UPR9043-CNRS, IBSM, 31 chemin Joseph Aiguier, 13402 Marseille cedex 20, France.


Erwinia chrysanthemi causes soft-rot disease in a great variety of plants. In addition to the depolymerizing activity of plant cell wall-degrading enzymes, iron acquisition and resistance to oxidative stress contribute greatly to the virulence of this pathogen. Here, we studied the pin10 locus originally thought to encode new virulence factors. The sequence analysis revealed six open reading frames that were homologous to the Escherichia coli sufA, sufB, sufC, sufD, sufS and sufE genes. Sequence similarity searching predicted that (i) SufA, SufB, SufD, SufS and SufE proteins are involved in iron metabolism and possibly in Fe-S cluster assembly; and (ii) SufC is an ATPase of an ABC transporter. The reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction procedure showed that the sufABCDSE genes constitute an operon. Expression of a sufB:uidA fusion was found to be induced in iron-deficient growth conditions and to be repressed by the iron-sensing Fur repressor. Each of the six suf genes was inactivated by the insertion of a cassette generating a non-polar mutation. The intracellular iron level in the sufA, sufB, sufC, sufS and sufE mutants was higher than in the wild type, as assessed by increased sensitivity to the iron-activated antibiotic streptonigrin. In addition, inactivation of sufC and sufD led to increased sensitivity to paraquat. Virulence tests showed that sufA and sufC mutants exhibited reduced ability to cause maceration of chicory leaves, whereas a functional sufC gene was necessary for the bacteria to cause systemic invasion of Saintpaulia ionantha. The E. coli sufC homologue was inactivated by reverse genetic. This mutation was found to modify the soxR-dependent induction of soxS gene expression. We discuss the possibility that SufC is a versatile ATPase that can associate either with the other Suf proteins to form a Fe-S cluster-assembling machinery or with membrane proteins encoded elsewhere in the chromosome to form an Fe-S ABC exporter. Overall, these results stress the importance of the connection between iron metabolism and oxidative stress during the early steps of infection by E. chrysanthemi.

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