Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae is a phytopathogen that causes devastating bacterial canker in kiwifruit. Among five biovars defined by genetic, biochemical, and virulence traits, P. syringae pv. actinidiae biovar 3 (Psa3) is the most aggressive and is responsible for the most recent reported outbreaks; however, the molecular basis of its heightened virulence is unclear. Therefore, we designed the first P. syringae multistrain whole-genome microarray, encompassing biovars Psa1, Psa2, and Psa3 and the well-established model P. syringae pv. tomato, and analyzed early bacterial responses to an apoplast-like minimal medium. Transcriptomic profiling revealed i) the strong activation in Psa3 of all hypersensitive reaction and pathogenicity (hrp) and hrp conserved (hrc) cluster genes, encoding components of the type III secretion system required for bacterial pathogenicity and involved in responses to environmental signals; ii) potential repression of the hrp/hrc cluster in Psa2; and iii) activation of flagellum-dependent cell motility and chemotaxis genes in Psa1. The detailed investigation of three gene families encoding upstream regulatory proteins (histidine kinases, their cognate response regulators, and proteins with diguanylate cyclase or phosphodiesterase domains) indicated that cyclic di-GMP may be a key regulator of virulence in P. syringae pv. actinidiae biovars. The gene expression data were supported by the quantification of biofilm formation. Our findings suggest that diverse early responses to the host apoplast, even among bacteria belonging to the same pathovar, can lead to different virulence strategies and may explain the differing outcomes of infections. Based on our detailed structural analysis of hrp operons, we also propose a revision of hrp cluster organization and operon regulation in P. syringae.
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license.