Elucidating three novel mechanisms of Pseudomonas syringae pathogenicity

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Virginia Tech

Pseudomonas syringae is an important bacterial plant pathogen that, as a species, is known to cause disease on hundreds of different plant species. However, any individual pathovar of P. syringae typically only causes disease on one or a few plant species, which constitute the host range of the pathovar. Plants are generally resistant to most pathogens primarily because the plant innate immune system is capable of recognizing conserved microbial-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs). Adapted pathovars of P. syringae secrete effector proteins through a Type Three Secretion System (T3SS) to suppress the immune response elicited by their MAMPs. However, secretion of effectors can also trigger a strong plant immune response if the plant harbors resistance proteins capable of recognizing the secreted effectors. Successful pathovars, therefore, must secrete a combination of effectors capable of suppressing MAMP/Pattern-Triggered Immunity (PTI) without eliciting Effector-Triggered Immunity. Here we identify several novel strategies employed by P. syringae to overcome the plant immune system and cause disease. First, we demonstrate that, in place of the canonical T3SS used by all known pathogens of P. syringae, several apparently nonpathogenic isolates of P. syringae employ a novel T3SS that is functional but not necessary for colonization of plants. Despite being closely related to pathogenic isolates of P. syringae, the isolates employing the noncanonical T3SS do not cause disease on any tested plants and instead appear to act more as commensal organisms. Second, we advance the understanding of PTI by identifying a second region of bacterial flagellin that triggers PTI in addition to the archetypical MAMP flg22, which is recognized by the archetypical plant receptor FLS2. This new elicitor, termed flgII-28, is also detected by FLS2 and appears to be under selection in very closely related lineages of P. syringae. Alleles of flagellin present in one recently expanded and agriculturally problematic lineage of P. syringae appear to trigger less PTI on their host plant, tomato, than the ancestral allele suggesting that avoidance of PTI through allelic diversity in MAMPs is an effective alternative strategy to suppression of PTI through delivery of effectors. Finally, we start to elucidate a role for chemotaxis (chemical-directed movement) in P. syringae pathogenicity. Not only is chemotaxis required for pathogenicity of P. syringae on plants, but it also appears to contribute to delimiting the host range of several P. syringae pathovars. These results highlight that additional aspects of P. syringae pathogenicity, such as chemotaxis, can directly contribute to defining the host range of individual P. syringae pathovars. The current paradigm of P. syringae pathogenicity posits that MAMPS and the repertoire of effector proteins are the primary determinant of the host range of any P. syringae pathovar; in contrast these results inspire a more nuanced view of pathogenicity that considers multiple aspects of the infection process.

Molecular plant-microbe interactions, plant immunity, plant pathology, Pseudomonas syringae, chemotaxis, MAMPs, PAMPS