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Trehalose Synthesis Contributes to Osmotic Stress Tolerance and Virulence of the Bacterial Wilt Pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum

  • MacIntyre, April M.
  • Barth, John X.
  • Pellitteri Hahn, Molly C.
  • Scarlett, Cameron O.
  • Génin, Stéphane
  • Allen, Caitilyn
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
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The xylem-dwelling plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum changes the chemical composition of host xylem sap during bacterial wilt disease. The disaccharide trehalose, implicated in stress tolerance across all kingdoms of life, is enriched in sap from R. solanacearum–infected tomato plants. Trehalose in xylem sap could be synthesized by the bacterium, the plant, or both. To investigate the source and role of trehalose metabolism during wilt disease, we evaluated the effects of deleting the three trehalose synthesis pathways in the pathogen: TreYZ, TreS, and OtsAB, as well as its sole trehalase, TreA. A quadruple treY/treS/otsA/treA mutant produced 30-fold less intracellular trehalose than the wild-type strain missing the trehalase enzyme. This trehalose-nonproducing mutant had reduced tolerance to osmotic stress, which the bacterium likely experiences in plant xylem vessels. Following naturalistic soil-soak inoculation of tomato plants, this triple mutant did not cause disease as well as wild-type R. solanacearum. Further, the wild-type strain out-competed the trehalose-nonproducing mutant by over 600-fold when tomato plants were coinoculated with both strains, showing that trehalose biosynthesis helps R. solanacearum overcome environmental stresses during infection. An otsA (trehalose-6-phosphate synthase) single mutant behaved similarly to ΔtreY/treS/otsA in all experimental settings, suggesting that the OtsAB pathway is the dominant trehalose synthesis pathway in R. solanacearum.

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