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Title: A mutation of a single core gene, tssM , of Type VI secretion system of Xanthomonas perforans influences virulence, epiphytic survival and transmission during pathogenesis on tomato
Xanthomonas perforans is a seed-borne hemi-biotrophic pathogen that successfully establishes infection in the phyllosphere of tomato. While the majority of the studies investigating mechanistic basis of pathogenesis have focused on successful apoplastic growth, factors important during asymptomatic colonization in the early stages of disease development are not well understood. In this study, we show that tssM gene of the type VI secretion system cluster i3* (T6SS-i3*) plays a significant role during initial asymptomatic epiphytic colonization at different stages during the life cycle of the pathogen. Mutation in a core gene, tssM of T6SS-i3*, imparted higher aggressiveness to the pathogen, as indicated by higher overall disease severity, higher in planta growth as well as shorter latent infection period compared to the wild-type upon dip-inoculation of 4-5-week-old tomato plants. Contribution of tssM towards aggressiveness was evident during vertical transmission from seed-to-seedling with wild-type showing reduced disease severity as well as lower in planta populations on seedlings compared to the mutant. Presence of functional TssM offered higher epiphytic fitness as well as higher dissemination potential to the pathogen when tested in an experimental setup mimicking transplant house high-humidity conditions. We showed higher osmotolerance being one mechanism by which TssM offers higher epiphytic fitness. Taken together, these data reveal that functional TssM plays a larger role in offering ecological advantage to the pathogen. TssM prolongs the association of hemi-biotrophic pathogen with the host, minimizing overall disease severity, yet facilitating successful dissemination.  more » « less
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National Science Foundation
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  1. Summary

    Plant diseases are an important threat to food production. While major pathogenicity determinants required for disease have been extensively studied, less is known on how pathogens thrive during host colonization, especially at early infection stages.

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