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ISME J. 2011 Dec;5(12):1857-70. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.65. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

Sharing of quorum-sensing signals and role of interspecies communities in a bacterial plant disease.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientali, Università degli Studi di Perugia, Perugia, Italy.


Pathogenic bacteria interact not only with the host organism but most probably also with the resident microbial flora. In the knot disease of the olive tree (Olea europaea), the causative agent is the bacterium Pseudomonas savastanoi pv. savastanoi (Psv). Two bacterial species, namely Pantoea agglomerans and Erwinia toletana, which are not pathogenic and are olive plant epiphytes and endophytes, have been found very often to be associated with the olive knot. We identified the chemical signals that are produced by strains of the three species isolated from olive knot and found that they belong to the N-acyl-homoserine lactone family of QS signals. The luxI/R family genes responsible for the production and response to these signals in all three bacterial species have been identified and characterized. Genomic knockout mutagenesis and in planta experiments showed that virulence of Psv critically depends on QS; however, the lack of signal production can be complemented by wild-type E. toletana or P. agglomerans. It is also apparent that the disease caused by Psv is aggravated by the presence of the two other bacterial species. In this paper we discuss the potential role of QS in establishing a stable consortia leading to a poly-bacterial disease.

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