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PLoS One. 2008 Aug 13;3(8):e2973. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002973.

Type III secretion system genes of Dickeya dadantii 3937 are induced by plant phenolic acids.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States of America.

Erratum in

  • PLoS ONE. 2008;3(9). doi: 10.1371/annotation/91170966-226f-4678-999e-22f2c4a6bb8d.



Dickeya dadantii is a broad-host range phytopathogen. D. dadantii 3937 (Ech3937) possesses a type III secretion system (T3SS), a major virulence factor secretion system in many gram-negative pathogens of plants and animals. In Ech3937, the T3SS is regulated by two major regulatory pathways, HrpX/HrpY-HrpS-HrpL and GacS/GacA-rsmB-RsmA pathways. Although the plant apoplast environment, low pH, low temperature, and absence of complex nitrogen sources in media have been associated with the induction of T3SS genes of phytobacteria, no specific inducer has yet been identified.


In this work, we identified two novel plant phenolic compounds, o-coumaric acid (OCA) and t-cinnamic acid (TCA), that induced the expression of T3SS genes dspE (a T3SS effector), hrpA (a structural protein of the T3SS pilus), and hrpN (a T3SS harpin) in vitro. Assays by qRT-PCR showed higher amounts of mRNA of hrpL (a T3SS alternative sigma factor) and rsmB (an untranslated regulatory RNA), but not hrpS (a sigma(54)-enhancer binding protein) of Ech3937 when these two plant compounds were supplemented into minimal medium (MM). However, promoter activity assays using flow cytometry showed similar promoter activities of hrpN in rsmB mutant Ech148 grown in MM and MM supplemented with these phenolic compounds. Compared with MM alone, only slightly higher promoter activities of hrpL were observed in bacterial cells grown in MM supplemented with OCA/TCA.


The induction of T3SS expression by OCA and TCA is moderated through the rsmB-RsmA pathway. This is the first report of plant phenolic compounds that induce the expression T3SS genes of plant pathogenic bacteria.

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