In many plant and animal bacterial pathogens, the Type III secretion system (TTSS) that directly translocates effector proteins into the eukaryotic host cells is essential for the development of disease. In all species studied, the transcription of the TTSS and most of its effector substrates is tightly regulated by a succession of consecutively activated regulators. However, the whole genetic programme driven by these regulatory cascades is still unknown, especially in bacterial plant pathogens. Here, we have characterised the programme triggered by HrpG, a host-responsive regulator of the TTSS activation cascade in the plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum. We show through genome-wide expression analysis that, in addition to the TTSS, HrpG controls the expression of a previously undescribed TTSS-independent pathway that includes a number of other virulence determinants and genes likely involved in adaptation to life in the host. Functional studies revealed that this second pathway co-ordinates the bacterial production of plant cell wall-degrading enzymes, exopolysaccharide, and the phytohormones ethylene and auxin. We provide experimental evidence that these activities contribute to pathogenicity. We also show that the ethylene produced by R. solanacearum is able to modulate the expression of host genes and can therefore interfere with the signalling of plant defence responses. These results provide a new, integrated view of plant bacterial pathogenicity, where a common regulator activates synchronously upon infection the TTSS, other virulence determinants and a number of adaptive functions, which act co-operatively to cause disease
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