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Mol Microbiol. 2004 Feb;51(4):1103-15.

Signal quenching, detoxification and mineralization of vir gene-inducing phenolics by the VirH2 protein of Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

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Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Wing Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Plant tumorigenesis by Agrobacterium tumefaciens requires approximately 20 Vir proteins, transcription of which is induced by a family of phenolic compounds released from plant wound sites. One Vir protein, VirH2, plays a role in the metabolism of at least one phenolic inducer inasmuch as it converts ferulic acid, a potent vir gene inducer, to the non-inducer caffeate by O-demethylation of a methoxyl group. Here, we tested VirH2-dependent O-demethylation of 16 other vir-inducing phenolics, and detected this activity for each compound. However, O-demethylation rates differed enormously, with the strongest vir gene inducers such as acetosyringone being demethylated extremely slowly. Compounds containing two methoxyl groups were demethylated at both positions. In general, phenolic inducers were more toxic than their demethylated counterparts. A virH2 mutant was more sensitive than the wild type to growth inhibition by virtually all phenolic inducers tested, indicating that VirH2 detoxifies these compounds. VirH2 also played a role in mineralization of some phenolics. It converted vanillate to protocatechuate, which was then mineralized via the beta-ketoadipate pathway. Vanillyl alcohol and vanillin were also mineralized after being oxidized to vanillate. All three compounds served as sole sources of carbon, whereas the remaining 13 compounds did not.

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