Agrobacterium tumefaciens biovar 3 causes both crown gall and root decay of grapes. All biovar 3 strains, regardless of their tumorigenicity, produce in culture a single polygalacturonase with a pI around 4.5. A. tumefaciens biovar 3 strain CG49 was mutagenized with Tn5 by using pSUP2021 as a suicide vector. A mutant strain, CG50, lacking polygalacturonase activity was isolated. The mutation was due to a single Tn5 insertion in an 8.5-kb EcoRI fragment that also contained the polygalacturonase structural gene. The polygalacturonase-encoding pehA gene was cloned in Escherichia coli by using the plasmid pBluescript as a vector. Activity-stained isoelectric focusing gel analysis demonstrated that E. coli cells harboring the pehA+ recombinant plasmid pCPP2067 produced a polygalacturonase in culture with the same pI as the enzyme produced by CG49. The pehA gene was localized within a 2.5-kb HindIII-SalI fragment. This fragment was used as a probe in Southern hybridization analysis and showed that no closely related genes are present in A. tumefaciens biovars 1 or 2, Rhizobium leguminosarum, or Bradyrhizobium japonicum. The polygalacturonase mutant was unable to induce root decay in grapes (Vitis vinifera cv. Chardonnay) and was substantially less tumorigenic than the wild type in grape stems when low levels of inoculum were used, although both strains were equally tumorigenic in potato disc assays. The results indicate that polygalacturonase is a virulence factor in both the root decay and crown gall incited in grapes by A. tumefaciens biovar 3
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