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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2014 May;88(2):258-71. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12290. Epub 2014 Feb 20.

Cellular, physiological, and molecular adaptive responses of Erwinia amylovora to starvation.

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Department of Microbiology and Ecology, University of Valencia, Burjassot, Valencia, Spain.


Erwinia amylovora causes fire blight, a destructive disease of rosaceous plants distributed worldwide. This bacterium is a nonobligate pathogen able to survive outside the host under starvation conditions, allowing its spread by various means such as rainwater. We studied E. amylovora responses to starvation using water microcosms to mimic natural oligotrophy. Initially, survivability under optimal (28 °C) and suboptimal (20 °C) growth temperatures was compared. Starvation induced a loss of culturability much more pronounced at 28 °C than at 20 °C. Natural water microcosms at 20 °C were then used to characterize cellular, physiological, and molecular starvation responses of E. amylovora. Challenged cells developed starvation-survival and viable but nonculturable responses, reduced their size, acquired rounded shapes and developed surface vesicles. Starved cells lost motility in a few days, but a fraction retained flagella. The expression of genes related to starvation, oxidative stress, motility, pathogenicity, and virulence was detected during the entire experimental period with different regulation patterns observed during the first 24 h. Further, starved cells remained as virulent as nonstressed cells. Overall, these results provide new knowledge on the biology of E. amylovora under conditions prevailing in nature, which could contribute to a better understanding of the life cycle of this pathogen.


fire blight; gene expression; morphology; motility; oligotrophy; pathogenicity; vesicles; virulence

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