A MotN Mutant of Ralstonia solanacearum Is Hypermotile and Has Reduced Virulence
Ralstonia solanacearum is a soil-borne plant pathogen that causes bacterial wilt disease on many plant species. We previously showed that swimming motility contributes to virulence of this bacterium in the early stages of host invasion and colonization. In this study we identified a new negative regulator of motility, named motN, that is located in a cluster of motility-related genes. A motN mutant was hypermotile both on 0.3% agar motility plates and in rich and minimal medium broth. However, like its wild-type parent, it was largely nonmotile inside plants. The motN mutant cells appeared hyperflagellated, and sheared cell protein preparations from motN contained more flagellin than preparations from wild-type cells. The motN strain was significantly reduced in virulence in a naturalistic soil soak assay on tomato plants. However, the motN mutant had wild-type virulence when it was inoculated directly into the plant vascular system. This suggests that motN makes its contribution to virulence early in disease development. The motN mutant formed weaker biofilms than the wild type, but it attached normally to tomato roots and colonized tomato stems as well as its wild-type parent. Phenotypic analysis and gene expression studies indicated that MotN directly or indirectly represses transcription of the major motility regulator FlhDC. MotN was also connected with other known motility and virulence regulators, PehSR, VsrBC, and VsrAD, via uncertain mechanisms. Together, these results demonstrate the importance of precise regulation of flagellum-mediated motility in R. solanacearum.