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Vol. 151, No. xx, 2005; Pages: 975–983

Two site-specific recombinases are implicated in
phenotypic variation and competitive rhizosphere
colonization in Pseudomonas fluorescens

Francisco Martinez-Granero, Silvia Capdevila, Maria Sanchez-Contreras,
Marta Martin and Rafael Rivilla

Departamento de Biologia, Universidad Auto´noma de Madrid, Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


The biocontrol agent Pseudomonas fluorescens F113 undergoes phenotypic variation during rhizosphere colonization, and this variation has been related to the activity of a site-specific recombinase encoded by the sss gene. Here, it is shown that a second recombinase encoded by the xerD gene is also implicated in phenotypic variation. A putative xerD gene from this strain was cloned, and sequence analysis confirmed that it encoded a site-specific recombinase of the integrase family. Mutants affected in the sss or xerD genes produced a very low quantity of phenotypic variants compared to the wild-type strain, both under prolonged cultivation in the laboratory and after rhizosphere colonization, and they were severely impaired in competitive root colonization. Overexpression of the genes encoding either recombinase resulted in a substantial increment in the production of phenotypic variants under both culture and rhizosphere colonization conditions, implying that both site-specific recombinases are involved in phenotypic variation. Overexpression of the sss gene suppressed the phenotype of a xerD mutant, but overexpression of the xerD gene had no effect on the phenotype of an sss mutant. Genetic analysis of the phenotypic variants obtained after overexpression of the genes encoding both the recombinases showed that they carried mutations in the gacA/S genes, which are necessary to produce a variety of secondary metabolites. These results indicate that the Gac system is affected by the activity of the site-specific recombinases. Transcriptional fusions of the sss and xerD genes with a promoterless lacZ gene showed that both genes have a similar expression pattern, with maximal expression during stationary phase. Although the expression of both genes was independent of diffusible compounds present in root exudates, it was induced by the plant, since bacteria attached to the root showed enhanced expression.

Keywords:PseudomonasfluorescensF113,xerDgene,Escherichiacoli,chromosome segregation,rhizosphere colonization,pathogens.

Corresponding author: Tel 41 1 632 38 69. Fax 41 1 632 11 08

E-mail: rafael.rivilla@uam.es

Department of Zoology, Life Science Building, University of Madras, Guindy Campus, Chennai - 600 025. Tamil Nadu, India. Phone:91-44-22300899, Fax : 044-22300899; Email: dzum@envis.nic.in; enviscoordinator@gmail.com
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