Herbaspirillum rubrisubalbicans was first identified as a bacterial plant pathogen, causing the mottled stripe disease in sugarcane. H. rubrisubalbicans can also associate with various plants of economic interest in a non pathogenic manner.
A 21kb DNA region of the H. rubrisubalbicans genome contains a cluster of 26 hrp/hrc genes encoding for the type three secretion system (T3SS) proteins. To investigate the contribution of T3SS to the plant-bacterial interaction process we generated mutant strains of H. rubrisubalbicans M1 carrying a Tn5 insertion in both the hrcN and hrpE genes. H. rubrisulbalbicans hrpE and hrcN mutant strains of the T3SS system failed to cause the mottled stripe disease in the sugarcane susceptible variety B-4362. These mutant strains also did not produce lesions on Vigna unguiculata leaves. Oryza sativa and Zea mays colonization experiments showed that mutations in hrpE and hrcN genes reduced the capacity of H. rubrisulbalbicans to colonize these plants, suggesting that hrpE and hrcN genes are involved in the endophytic colonization.
Our results indicate that the T3SS of H. rubrisubalbicans is necessary for the development of the mottled stripe disease and endophytic colonization of rice.