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Mol Microbiol. 1998 Jan;27(2):437-53.

PrhA controls a novel regulatory pathway required for the specific induction of Ralstonia solanacearum hrp genes in the presence of plant cells.

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Laboratoire de Biologie Mol├ęculaire des Relations Plantes-Microorganismes, INRA-CNRS, Castanet-tolosan, France.


The Ralstonia solanacearum hrp gene cluster is organized in five transcriptional units. Expression of transcriptional units 2, 3 and 4 is induced in minimal medium and depends on the hrp regulatory gene hrpB, which belongs to unit 1. This regulatory gene also controls the expression of genes, such as popA, located to the left of the hrp cluster. Here, we show that, upon co-culture with Arabidopsis thaliana and tomato cell suspensions, the expression of the hrp transcriptional units 1, 2, 3 and 4 is induced 10- to 20-fold more than in minimal medium. This induction is not triggered by diffusible signals but requires the presence of plant cells. Moreover, we show that this specific plant cell induction of hrp genes is controlled by a gene, called prhA (plant regulator of hrp genes), located next to popA. This gene codes for a putative protein of 770 amino acids, which shows similarities with TonB-dependent outer membrane siderophore receptors. Expression of prhA and hrp genes is not regulated by iron status, and we postulate that iron is not the signal sensed by PrhA. In prhA mutants, the induction of hrpB and other hrp genes is abolished in co-culture with Arabidopsis cells, partially reduced in co-culture with tomato cells and not modified in minimal medium. prhA mutants are hypo-aggressive on Arabidopsis (accessions Col-0 and Col-5) but remain fully pathogenic on tomato plants, suggesting that the co-culture assays mimic the in planta conditions. A model suggesting that PrhA is a receptor for plant specific signals at the top of a novel hrp regulatory pathway is discussed.

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