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1.  A Type VI Secretion System Is Involved in Pseudomonas fluorescens Bacterial Competition 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89411.
Protein secretion systems are crucial mediators of bacterial interactions with other organisms. Among them, the type VI secretion system (T6SS) is widespread in Gram-negative bacteria and appears to inject toxins into competitor bacteria and/or eukaryotic cells. Major human pathogens, such as Vibrio cholerae, Burkholderia and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, express T6SSs. Bacteria prevent self-intoxication by their own T6SS toxins by producing immunity proteins, which interact with the cognate toxins. We describe here an environmental P. fluorescens strain, MFE01, displaying an uncommon oversecretion of Hcp (hemolysin-coregulated protein) and VgrG (valine-glycine repeat protein G) into the culture medium. These proteins are characteristic components of a functional T6SS. The aim of this study was to attribute a role to this energy-consuming overexpression of the T6SS. The genome of MFE01 contains at least two hcp genes (hcp1 and hcp2), suggesting that there may be two putative T6SS clusters. Phenotypic studies have shown that MFE01 is avirulent against various eukaryotic cell models (amebas, plant or animal cell models), but has antibacterial activity against a wide range of competitor bacteria, including rhizobacteria and clinical bacteria. Depending on the prey cell, mutagenesis of the hcp2 gene in MFE01 abolishes or reduces this antibacterial killing activity. Moreover, the introduction of T6SS immunity proteins from S. marcescens, which is not killed by MFE01, protects E. coli against MFE01 killing. These findings suggest that the protein encoded by hcp2 is involved in the killing activity of MFE01 mediated by effectors of the T6SS targeting the peptidoglycan of Gram-negative bacteria. Our results indicate that MFE01 can protect potato tubers against Pectobacterium atrosepticum, which causes tuber soft rot. Pseudomonas fluorescens is often described as a major PGPR (plant growth-promoting rhizobacterium), and our results suggest that there may be a connection between the T6SS and the PGPR properties of this bacterium.
PMCID: PMC3925238  PMID: 24551247
2.  In Planta Biocontrol of Pectobacterium atrosepticum by Rhodococcus erythropolis Involves Silencing of Pathogen Communication by the Rhodococcal Gamma-Lactone Catabolic Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66642.
The virulence of numerous Gram-negative bacteria is under the control of a quorum sensing process based on synthesis and perception of N-acyl homoserine lactones. Rhodococcus erythropolis, a Gram-positive bacterium, has recently been proposed as a biocontrol agent for plant protection against soft-rot bacteria, including Pectobacterium. Here, we show that the γ-lactone catabolic pathway of R. erythropolis disrupts Pectobacterium communication and prevents plant soft-rot. We report the first characterization and demonstration of N-acyl homoserine lactone quenching in planta. In particular, we describe the transcription of the R. erythropolis lactonase gene, encoding the key enzyme of this pathway, and the subsequent lactone breakdown. The role of this catabolic pathway in biocontrol activity was confirmed by deletion of the lactonase gene from R. erythropolis and also its heterologous expression in Escherichia coli. The γ-lactone catabolic pathway is induced by pathogen communication rather than by pathogen invasion. This is thus a novel and unusual biocontrol pathway, differing from those previously described as protecting plants from phytopathogens. These findings also suggest the existence of an additional pathway contributing to plant protection.
PMCID: PMC3689677  PMID: 23805254
3.  Virulence of the Pseudomonas fluorescens clinical strain MFN1032 towards Dictyostelium discoideum and macrophages in relation with type III secretion system 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:223.
Pseudomonas fluorescens biovar I MFN1032 is a clinical isolate able to grow at 37°C. This strain displays secretion-mediated hemolytic activity involving phospholipase C and cyclolipopeptides, and a cell-associated hemolytic activity distinct from the secreted hemolytic activity. Cell-associated hemolysis is independent of biosurfactant production and remains in a gacA mutant. Disruption of the hrpU-like operon (the basal part of type III secretion system from rhizospheric strains) suppresses this activity. We hypothesized that this phenotype could reflect evolution of an ancestral mechanism involved in the survival of this species in its natural niche. In this study, we evaluated the hrpU-like operon’s contribution to other virulence mechanisms using a panel of Pseudomonas strains from various sources.
We found that MFN1032 inhibited the growth of the amoebae Dictyostelium discoideum and that this inhibition involved the hrpU-like operon and was absent in a gacA mutant. MFN1032 was capable of causing macrophage lysis, if the hrpU-like operon was intact, and this cytotoxicity remained in a gacA mutant. Cell-associated hemolytic activity and macrophage necrosis were found in other P. fluorescens clinical isolates, but not in biocontrol P. fluorescens strains harbouring hrpU-like operon. The growth of Dictyostelium discoideum was inhibited to a different extent by P. fluorescens strains without correlation between this inhibition and hrpU-like operon sequences.
In P. fluorescens MFN1032, the basal part of type III secretion system plays a role in D. discoideum growth inhibition and macrophage necrosis. The inhibition of D. discoideum growth is dependent on the GacS/GacA system, while cell-associated hemolytic activity and macrophage lysis are not. Virulence against eukaryotic cells based on the hrpU-like operon may be more than just a stochastic evolution of a conserved system dedicated to survival in competition with natural predators such as amoebae. It may also mean that there are some important modifications of other type III secretion system components, which remain unknown. Cell-associated hemolysis might be a good indicator of the virulence of Pseudomonas fluorescens strain.
PMCID: PMC3489880  PMID: 23020706
Pseudomonas fluorescens clinical strains; Type III secretion system; Dictyostelium discoideum; Macrophage necrosis; Cell-associated hemolytic activity
4.  Quorum Sensing Signaling Molecules Produced by Reference and Emerging Soft-Rot Bacteria (Dickeya and Pectobacterium spp.) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35176.
Several small diffusible molecules are involved in bacterial quorum sensing and virulence. The production of autoinducers-1 and -2, quinolone, indole and γ-amino butyrate signaling molecules was investigated in a set of soft-rot bacteria belonging to six Dickeya or Pectobacterium species including recent or emerging potato isolates.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using bacterial biosensors, immunoassay, and chromatographic analysis, we showed that soft-rot bacteria have the common ability to produce transiently during their exponential phase of growth the N-3-oxo-hexanoyl- or the N-3-oxo-octanoyl-l-homoserine lactones and a molecule of the autoinducer-2 family. Dickeya spp. produced in addition the indole-3-acetic acid in tryptophan-rich conditions. All these signaling molecules have been identified for the first time in the novel Dickeya solani species. In contrast, quinolone and γ-amino butyrate signals were not identified and the corresponding synthases are not present in the available genomes of soft-rot bacteria. To determine if the variations of signal production according to growth phase could result from expression modifications of the corresponding synthase gene, the respective mRNA levels were estimated by reverse transcriptase-PCR. While the N-acyl-homoserine lactone production is systematically correlated to the synthase expression, that of the autoinducer-2 follows the expression of an enzyme upstream in the activated methyl cycle and providing its precursor, rather than the expression of its own synthase.
Despite sharing the S-adenosylmethionine precursor, no strong link was detected between the production kinetics or metabolic pathways of autoinducers-1 and -2. In contrast, the signaling pathway of autoinducer-2 seems to be switched off by the indole-3-acetic acid pathway under tryptophan control. It therefore appears that the two genera of soft-rot bacteria have similarities but also differences in the mechanisms of communication via the diffusible molecules. Our results designate autoinducer-1 lactones as the main targets for a global biocontrol of soft-rot bacteria communications, including those of emerging isolates.
PMCID: PMC3335102  PMID: 22539957
5.  N-Acyl Homoserine Lactones in Diverse Pectobacterium and Dickeya Plant Pathogens: Diversity, Abundance, and Involvement in Virulence 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2012;12(3):3484-3497.
Soft-rot bacteria Pectobacterium and Dickeya use N-acyl homoserine lactones (NAHSLs) as diffusible signals for coordinating quorum sensing communication. The production of NAHSLs was investigated in a set of reference strains and recently-collected isolates, which belong to six species and share the ability to infect the potato host plant. All the pathogens produced different NAHSLs, among which the 3-oxo-hexanoyl- and the 3-oxo-octanoyl-l-homoserine lactones represent at least 90% of total produced NAHSL-amounts. The level of NAHSLs varied from 0.6 to 2 pg/cfu. The involvement of NAHSLs in tuber maceration was investigated by electroporating a quorum quenching vector in each of the bacterial pathogen strains. All the NAHSL-lactonase expressing strains produced a lower amount of NAHSLs as compared to those harboring the empty vector. Moreover, all except Dickeya dadantii 3937 induced a lower level of symptoms in potato tuber assay. Noticeably, aggressiveness appeared to be independent of both nature and amount of produced signals. This work highlights that quorum sensing similarly contributed to virulence in most of the tested Pectobacterium and Dickeya, even the strains had been isolated recently or during the past decades. Thus, these key regulatory-molecules appear as credible targets for developing anti-virulence strategies against these plant pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3376598  PMID: 22737020
soft-rot bacteria; Solanum tuberosum L.; N-acyl homoserine lactones; quorum sensing; AttM lactonase; quorum quenching
6.  Thermoregulation of N-Acyl Homoserine Lactone-Based Quorum Sensing in the Soft Rot Bacterium Pectobacterium atrosepticum▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(12):4078-4081.
The psychrotolerant bacterium Pectobacterium atrosepticum produces four N-acyl homoserine lactones under a wide range of temperatures. Their thermoregulation differs from that of the exoenzyme production, described as being under quorum-sensing control. A mechanism involved in this thermoregulation consists of controlling N-acyl homoserine lactones synthase production at a transcriptional level.
PMCID: PMC1932719  PMID: 17468275

Results 1-6 (6)