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Mol Microbiol. 1998 Jun;28(5):961-70.

The rpfA gene of Xanthomonas campestris pathovar campestris, which is involved in the regulation of pathogenicity factor production, encodes an aconitase.

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The Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, UK.


Xanthomonas campestris pv campestris (Xcc) is a plant pathogenic bacterium that controls the production of pathogenicity factors in part by a cluster of genes designated rpf (regulation of pathogenicity factors). Sequence analysis of one of these genes (rpfA) revealed an open reading frame with amino acid sequence similarity to aconitases from other bacteria. Aconitase activity was lower in cellular extracts of an rpfA::Tn5 mutant than in those from the wild type. A zymogram of aconitase activity after native gel electrophoresis showed the presence of two distinct aconitases in Xcc; the major aconitase was absent in the rpfA::Tn5 mutant. This mutant also had reduced levels of extracellular enzymes and extracellular polysaccharide (EPS). Supplying rpfA in trans to the rpfA::Tn5 mutant restored both the major aconitase activity and the synthesis of these pathogenicity factors. The transcription of the genes for two extracellular enzymes (prtA, encoding a serine protease, and engXCA, encoding endoglucanase) was reduced in the rpfA mutant background. Because some eukaryotic aconitases are also involved in iron regulation, we explored a possible connection between rpfA and iron metabolism. Intracellular iron levels in the mutants were lower than in the wild type as assessed by sensitivity to the iron-activated antibiotic, streptonigrin. Wild-type bacteria grown in iron-deficient conditions had a similar sensitivity to streptonigrin as the aconitase mutant. Overall, these results suggest that a prokaryotic aconitase can also act as a regulator of gene expression and that the regulation is possibly related to changes in intracellular iron levels.

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