Indexed on: 26 Feb '04Published on: 26 Feb '04Published in: Molecular Microbiology
Erwinia chrysanthemi causes soft-rot diseases of various plants by enzymatic degradation of the pectin in plant cell walls. The linear regions of pectin are composed of an acidic sugar, D-galacturonic acid. The ramified regions of pectin also include neutral sugars, and are rich in L-rhamnose residues. E. chrysanthemi is able to degrade these polysaccharides, polygalacturonate and rhamnogalacturonate. In E. chrysanthemi, the production of pectinases acting on linear regions is induced in the presence of polygalacturonate by a mechanism involving the repressor KdgR. The induction of the two adjacent E. chrysanthemi genes, designated rhiT and rhiN, is maximal after the simultaneous addition of both polygalacturonate and L-rhamnose. The rhiT product is homologous to the oligogalacturonide transporter TogT of E. chrysanthemi. The rhiN product is homologous to various proteins of unknown function, including a protein encoded by the plant-inducible locus picA of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Both rhiT and rhiN are highly induced during plant infection. Various data suggest that RhiT and RhiN are involved in rhamnogalacturonate catabolism. RhiN is able to degrade the oligomers liberated by the rhamnogalacturonate lyase RhiE. The induction of the rhiTN operon in the presence of polygalacturonate results from control by the repressor KdgR. The additional induction of these genes by rhamnose is directly mediated by RhaS, a protein homologous to the activator of rhamnose catabolism in Escherichia coli. The virulence of an E. chrysanthemi rhaS mutant towards different host plants was clearly reduced. In this phytopathogenic bacterial species, RhaS positively regulates the transcription of the rhaBAD operon, involved in rhamnose catabolism, of the rhiE gene and of the rhiTN operon. The regulator RhaS plays a larger role in E. chrysanthemi than in other enterobacteria. Indeed, the RhaS control is not restricted to the catabolism of rhamnose but is extended to the degradation of plant polysaccharides that contain this sugar.