Plant Pathology Department



James R. Alfano

Date of this Version



MPMI Vol. 16, No. 12, 2003, pp. 1106–1117. Publication no. M-2003-0929-01R.


Copyright © 2003 The American Phytopathological Society. Used by permission.


Concerted investigations of factors affecting host-pathogen interactions are now possible with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and its model pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000, as their whole genome sequences have become available. As a prelude to analysis of the regulatory genes and their targets, we have focused on GacA, the response regulator of a two-component system. The DC3000 gene was cloned by testing for the reversal of phenotypes of an Erwinia GacA– mutant. A GacA– mutant of DC3000 constructed by marker exchange produces much-reduced levels of transcripts of three alternate sigma factors: HrpL, required for the production of effector proteins and their translocation via the type III secretion system; RpoS, required for stress responses and secondary metabolite production; and RpoN, required for an assortment of metabolic processes and expression of hrpL. GacA deficiency also reduces the expression of hrpR and hrpS, which specify enhancer-binding proteins of the NtrC family required for hrpL transcription; ahlI and ahlR, the genes for quorum sensing signal; salA, a regulatory gene known to control virulence; CorS, a sensor kinase; CorR, the cognate response regulator that controls coronatine biosynthetic genes; and rsmB and rsmZ, which specify untranslatable regulatory RNA species. gacA expression itself is regulated by environmental conditions in DC3000, since transcript levels are affected by growth phase and media composition. The observations that high levels of gacA RNA occur in the hrp-inducing medium and GacA deficiency reduces the levels of rpoS expression implicate an important role of GacA in stress responses of DC3000. Consistent with the effects on hrpL expression, the GacA mutant produces lower levels of transcripts of avr, hrp, and hop genes controlled by HrpL. In addition, GacA deficiency results in reduced levels of transcripts of several HrpL-independent genes. As would be expected, these effects on gene expression cause drastic changes in bacterial behavior: virulence towards A. thaliana and tomato; multiplication in planta; efficiency of the induction of the hypersensitive reaction (HR); production of pigment and N-acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL), the presumed quorum-sensing signal; and swarming motility. Our findings establish that GacA, located at the top in a regulatory cascade in DC3000, functions as a central regulator by controlling an assortment of transcriptional and posttranscriptional factors.