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Environ Microbiol. 2010 Jan;12(1):147-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.02056.x. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

A single genetic locus in the phytopathogen Pantoea stewartii enables gut colonization and pathogenicity in an insect host.

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Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, S4S0A2, Canada.


Aphids are typically exposed to a variety of epiphytic and phytopathogenic bacteria, many of which have entomopathogenic potential. Here we describe the interaction between Pantoea stewartii ssp. stewartii DC283 (DC283), an enteric phytopathogen and causal agent of Stewart's wilt, and the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum. When ingested by aphids, DC283 establishes and aggregates in the crop and gut, preventing honeydew flow and excretion, resulting in aphid death in 72 h. A mutagenesis screen identified a single locus, termed ucp1 (youcannot pass), whose disruption abolishes aphid pathogenicity. Moreover, the expression of ucp1 in Escherichia coli is sufficient to mediate the hindgut aggregation phenotype by this normally avirulent species. Ucp1 is related to six other proteins in the DC283 genome, each having a common N-terminal region and a divergent C-terminus, but only ucp1 has a role in pathogenicity. Based on predicted motifs and secondary structure, Ucp1 is a membrane-bound protein that functions in bacterial adhesion and promotes the formation of aggregates that are lethal to the insect host. These results illustrate that the enteric plant pathogenic bacteria have the capacity to exploit alternative non-plant hosts, and retain genetic determinants for colonizing the gut.

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