The RpfCG two-component system negatively regulates the colonization of sugar cane stalks by Xanthomonas albilineans
The genome of Xanthomonas albilineans, the causal agent of sugar cane leaf scald, carries a gene cluster encoding a predicted quorum sensing system that is highly related to the diffusible signalling factor (DSF) systems of the plant pathogens Xylella fastidiosa and Xanthomonas campestris. In these latter pathogens, a cluster of regulation of pathogenicity factors (rpf) genes encodes the DSF system and is involved in control of various cellular processes. Mutation of Xanthomonas albilineans rpfF, encoding a predicted DSF synthase, in Florida strain XaFL07-1 resulted in a small reduction of disease severity (DS). Single-knockout mutations of rpfC and rpfG (encoding a predicted DSF sensor and regulator, respectively) had no effect on DS or swimming motility of the pathogen. However, capacity of the pathogen to cause disease was slightly reduced and swimming motility was severely affected when rpfG and rpfC were both deleted. Similar results were obtained when the entire rpfGCF region was deleted. Surprisingly, when the pathogen was mutated in rpfG or rpfC (single or double mutations) it was able to colonize sugar cane spatially more efficiently than the wild-type. Mutation in rpfF alone did not affect the degree of spatial invasion. We conclude that the DSF signal contributes to symptom expression but not to invasion of sugar cane stalks by Xanthomonas albilineans strain XaFL07-1, which is mainly controlled by the RpfCG two-component system.