The Gram-negative bacterium Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri (Xac) causes citrus canker, one of the most destructive diseases of citrus worldwide. In our previous work, a transposon mutant of Xac strain 306 with an insertion in the XAC3110 locus was isolated in a screening that aimed at identifying genes related to biofilm formation. The XAC3110 locus was named as bdp24 for biofilm-defective phenotype and the mutant was observed to be affected in extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) biosynthesis and cell motility. In this study, we further characterized the bdp24 (XAC3110) gene (designated as gpsX) using genetic complementation assays and expanded the knowledge about the function of the gpsX gene in Xac pathogenesis by investigating the roles of gpsX in EPS and LPS production, cell motility, biofilm formation on host leaves, stress tolerance, growth in planta, and host virulence of the citrus canker bacterium.
The gpsX gene encodes a putative glycosyltransferase, which is highly conserved in the sequenced strains of Xanthomonas. Mutation of gpsX resulted in a significant reduction of the amount of EPS and loss of two LPS bands visualized on sodium dodecylsulphate- polyacrylamide gels. Biofilm assays revealed that the gpsX mutation affected biofilm formation by Xac on abiotic and biotic surfaces. The gpsX mutant showed delayed bacterial growth and caused reduced development of disease symptoms in susceptible citrus leaves. The gpsX mutant was more sensitive than the wild-type strain to various stresses, including the H2O2 oxidative stress. The mutant also showed attenuated ability in cell motility but not in flagellar formation. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR assays indicated that mutation of gpsX did not affect the expression of virulence genes such as pthA in Xac strain 306. The affected phenotypes of the gpsX mutant could be complemented to wild-type levels by the intact gpsX gene.
Taken together, our data confirm that the gpsX gene is involved in EPS and LPS synthesis and biofilm formation in Xac and suggest that the gpsX gene contributes to the adaptation of Xac to the host microenvironments at early stage of infection and thus is required for full virulence on host plants.