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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Apr;56(1):189-203.

The cell density-dependent expression of stewartan exopolysaccharide in Pantoea stewartii ssp. stewartii is a function of EsaR-mediated repression of the rcsA gene.

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Department of Plant Science, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.


The LuxR-type quorum-sensing transcription factor EsaR functions as a repressor of exopolysaccharide (EPS) synthesis in the phytopathogenic bacterium Pantoea stewartii ssp. stewartii. The cell density-dependent expression of EPS is critical for Stewart's wilt disease development. Strains deficient in the synthesis of a diffusible acyl-homoserine lactone inducer remain repressed for EPS synthesis and are consequently avirulent. In contrast, disruption of the esaR gene leads to hypermucoidy and attenuated disease development. Ligand-free EsaR functions as a negative autoregulator of the esaR gene and responds to exogenous acyl-homoserine lactone for derepression. The focus of this study was to define the mechanism by which EsaR governs the expression of the cps locus, which encodes functions required for stewartan EPS synthesis and membrane translocation. Genetic and biochemical studies show that EsaR directly represses the transcription of the rcsA gene. RcsA encodes an essential coactivator for RcsA/RcsB-mediated transcriptional activation of cps genes. In vitro assays identify an EsaR DNA binding site within the rcsA promoter that is reasonably well conserved with the previously described esaR box. We also describe that RcsA positively controls its own expression. Interestingly, promoter proximal genes within the cps cluster are significantly more acyl-homoserine lactone responsive than genes located towards the middle or 3' end of the gene cluster. We will discuss a possible role of EsaR-mediated quorum sensing in the differential expression of the cps operon.

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