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Mol Microbiol. 2004 Sep;53(6):1641-60.

Ralstonia solanacearum genes induced during growth in tomato: an inside view of bacterial wilt.

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Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The phytopathogen Ralstonia solanacearum has over 5000 genes, many of which probably facilitate bacterial wilt disease development. Using in vivo expression technology (IVET), we screened a library of 133 200 R. solanacearum strain K60 promoter fusions and isolated approximately 900 fusions expressed during bacterial growth in tomato plants. Sequence analysis of 307 fusions revealed 153 unique in planta-expressed (ipx) genes. These genes included seven previously identified virulence genes (pehR, vsrB, vsrD, rpoS, hrcC, pme and gspK) as well as seven additional putative virulence factors. A significant number of ipx genes may reflect adaptation to the host xylem environment; 19.6%ipx genes are predicted to encode proteins with metabolic and/or transport functions, and 9.8%ipx genes encode proteins possibly involved in stress responses. Many ipx genes (18%) encode putative transmembrane proteins. A majority of ipx genes isolated encode proteins of unknown function, and 13% were unique to R. solanacearum. The ipx genes were variably induced in planta; beta-glucuronidase reporter gene expression analysis of a subset of 44 ipx fusions revealed that in planta expression levels were between two- and 37-fold higher than in culture. The expression of many ipx genes was subject to known R. solanacearum virulence regulators. Of 32 fusions tested, 28 were affected by at least one virulence regulator; several fusions were controlled by multiple regulators. Two ipx fusion strains isolated in this screen were reduced in virulence on tomato, indicating that gene(s) important for bacterial wilt pathogenesis were interrupted by the IVET insertion; mutations in other ipx genes are necessary to determine their roles in virulence and in planta growth. Collectively, this profile of ipx genes suggests that in its host, R. solanacearum confronts and overcomes a stressful and nutrient-poor environment.

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