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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Feb;70(2):693-703.

NorM, an Erwinia amylovora multidrug efflux pump involved in in vitro competition with other epiphytic bacteria.

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School of Engineering and Sciences, International University of Bremen, 28759 Bremen, Germany.


Blossoms are important sites of infection for Erwinia amylovora, the causal agent of fire blight of rosaceous plants. Before entering the tissue, the pathogen colonizes the stigmatic surface and has to compete for space and nutrient resources within the epiphytic community. Several epiphytes are capable of synthesizing antibiotics with which they antagonize phytopathogenic bacteria. Here, we report that a multidrug efflux transporter, designated NorM, of E. amylovora confers tolerance to the toxin(s) produced by epiphytic bacteria cocolonizing plant blossoms. According to sequence comparisons, the single-component efflux pump NorM is a member of the multidrug and toxic compound extrusion protein family. The corresponding gene is widely distributed among E. amylovora strains and related plant-associated bacteria. NorM mediated resistance to the hydrophobic cationic compounds norfloxacin, ethidium bromide, and berberine. A norM mutant was constructed and exhibited full virulence on apple rootstock MM 106. However, it was susceptible to antibiotics produced by epiphytes isolated from apple and quince blossoms. The epiphytes were identified as Pantoea agglomerans by 16S rRNA analysis and were isolated from one-third of all trees examined. The promoter activity of norM was twofold greater at 18 degrees C than at 28 degrees C. The lower temperature seems to be beneficial for host infection because of the availability of moisture necessary for movement of the pathogen to the infection sites. Thus, E. amylovora might employ NorM for successful competition with other epiphytic microbes to reach high population densities, particularly at a lower temperature.

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