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J Bacteriol. 2012 Mar;194(6):1287-98. doi: 10.1128/JB.06058-11. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

Pseudomonas syringae coordinates production of a motility-enabling surfactant with flagellar assembly.

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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA.


Using a sensitive assay, we observed low levels of an unknown surfactant produced by Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae B728a that was not detected by traditional methods yet enabled swarming motility in a strain that exhibited deficient production of syringafactin, the main characterized surfactant produced by P. syringae. Random mutagenesis of the syringafactin-deficient strain revealed an acyltransferase with homology to rhlA from Pseudomonas aeruginosa that was required for production of this unidentified surfactant, subsequently characterized by mass spectrometry as 3-(3-hydroxyalkanoyloxy) alkanoic acid (HAA). Analysis of other mutants with altered surfactant production revealed that HAA is coordinately regulated with the late-stage flagellar gene encoding flagellin; mutations in genes involved in early flagellar assembly abolish or reduce HAA production, while mutations in flagellin or flagellin glycosylation genes increase its production. When colonizing a hydrated porous surface, the bacterium increases production of both flagellin and HAA. P. syringae was defective in porous-paper colonization without functional flagella and was slightly inhibited in this movement when it lacked surfactant production. Loss of HAA production in a syringafactin-deficient strain had no effect on swimming but abolished swarming motility. In contrast, a strain that lacked HAA but retained syringafactin production exhibited broad swarming tendrils, while a syringafactin-producing strain that overproduced HAA exhibited slender swarming tendrils. On the basis of further analysis of mutants altered in HAA production, we discuss its regulation in Pseudomonas syringae.

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