Plant cell wall degrading enzymes (PCWDEs) are the primary virulence determinants of soft rotting bacteria such as the potato pathogen, Pectobacterium atrosepticum. The regulation of secondary metabolite (Rsm) system controls production of PCWDEs in response to changing nutrient conditions. This work identified a new suppressor of an rsmB mutation – ECA1172 or rsmS (rsmBsuppressor). Mutants defective in rsmB (encoding a small regulatory RNA), show reduced elaboration of the quorum sensing molecule (N-3-oxohexanoyl-homoserine lactone; OHHL) and PCWDEs. However, OHHL and PCWDE production were partially restored in an rsmB, rsmS double mutant. Single rsmS mutants, overproduced PCWDEs and OHHL relative to wild type P. atrosepticum and exhibited hypervirulence in potato. RsmS overproduction also resulted in increased PCWDEs and OHHL. Homology searches revealed rsmS conservation across pathogens such as Escherichia coli (ybaM), Dickeya solani, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Shigella flexneri. An rsmS mutant of Pectobacterium carotovorum ATCC39048 showed bypass of rsmB-dependent repression of PCWDEs and OHHL production. P. carotovorum ATCC39048 produces the β-lactam antibiotic, 1-carbapen-2-em-3-carboxylic acid (a carbapenem). Production of the antibiotic was repressed in an rsmB mutant but partially restored in an rsmB, rsmS double mutant. This work highlights the importance of RsmS, as a conserved pleiotropic regulator of virulence and antibiotic biosynthesis.
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The authors acknowledge the technical help of Sarah Barker, Alison Rawlinson and Diana Breitmaier. Maria Stroyakovski and Amy Hill provided comments on the manuscript and Jessica Bergman provided helpful discussions throughout the writing process. NS was supported by a postgraduate research studentship from the MRC, UK. KA, SB, and MC were supported by postgraduate research studentships from the BBSRC, UK and the GPCS lab was in receipt of generous grant support from the BBSRC, UK (awards BB/N008081/1, BB/H013261/1 and BB/F009666/1) and from the James Hutton Institute, Scotland.
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