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EMBO J. 1992 Mar;11(3):795-804.

Fasciation induction by the phytopathogen Rhodococcus fascians depends upon a linear plasmid encoding a cytokinin synthase gene.

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Laboratorium voor Genetica, Universiteit Gent, Belgium.


Rhodococcus fascians is a nocardiform bacteria that induces leafy galls (fasciation) on dicotyledonous and several monocotyledonous plants. The wild-type strain D188 contained a conjugative, 200 kb linear extrachromosomal element, pFiD188. Linear plasmid-cured strains were avirulent and reintroduction of this linear element restored virulence. Pulsed field electrophoresis indicated that the chromosome might also be a linear molecule of 4 megabases. Three loci involved in phytopathogenicity have been identified by insertion mutagenesis of this Fi plasmid. Inactivation of the fas locus resulted in avirulent strains, whereas insertions in the two other loci affected the degree of virulence, yielding attenuated (att) and hypervirulent (hyp) bacteria. One of the genes within the fas locus encoded an isopentenyltranferase (IPT) with low homology to analogous proteins from Gram-negative phytopathogenic bacteria. IPT activity was detected after expression of this protein in Escherichia coli cells. In R.fascians, ipt expression could only be detected in bacteria induced with extracts from fasciated tissue. R.fascians strains without the linear plasmid but containing this fas locus alone could not provoke any phenotype on plants, indicating additional genes from the linear plasmid were also essential for virulence. These studies, the first genetic analysis of the interaction of a Gram-positive bacterium with plants, suggest that a novel mechanism for plant tumour induction has evolved in R.fascians independently from the other branches of the eubacteria.

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