Analysis of the in planta transcriptome expressed by the corn pathogen Pantoea stewartii subsp. stewartii via RNA-Seq
Burke, Alison K.
Jensen, Roderick V.
Stevens, Ann M.
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Pantoea stewartii subsp. stewartii is a bacterial phytopathogen that causes Stewart’s wilt disease in corn. It uses quorum sensing to regulate expression of some genes involved in virulence in a cell density-dependent manner as the bacterial population grows from small numbers at the initial infection site in the leaf apoplast to high cell numbers in the xylem where it forms a biofilm. There are also other genes important for pathogenesis not under quorum-sensing control such as a Type III secretion system. The purpose of this study was to compare gene expression during an in planta infection versus either a pre-inoculum in vitro liquid culture or an in vitro agar plate culture to identify genes specifically expressed in planta that may also be important for colonization and/or virulence. RNA was purified from each sample type to determine the transcriptome via RNA-Seq using Illumina sequencing of cDNA. Fold gene expression changes in the in planta data set in comparison to the two in vitro grown samples were determined and a list of the most differentially expressed genes was generated to elucidate genes important for plant association. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) was used to validate expression patterns for a select subset of genes. Analysis of the transcriptome data via gene ontology revealed that bacterial transporters and systems important for oxidation reduction processes appear to play a critical role for P. stewartii as it colonizes and causes wilt disease in corn plants.