A Rhamnose-Rich O-Antigen Mediates Adhesion, Virulence, and Host Colonization for the Xylem-Limited Phytopathogen Xylella fastidiosa
Xylella fastidiosa is a gram-negative, xylem-limited bacterium that causes a lethal disease of grapevine called Pierce's disease. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) composes approximately 75% of the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria and, because it is largely displayed on the cell surface, it mediates interactions between the bacterial cell and its surrounding environment. LPS is composed of a conserved lipid A-core oligosaccharide component and a variable O-antigen portion. By targeting a key O-antigen biosynthetic gene, we demonstrate the contribution of the rhamnose-rich O-antigen to surface attachment, cell cell aggregation, and biofilm maturation: critical steps for successful infection of the host xylem tissue. Moreover, we have demonstrated that a fully formed O-antigen moiety is an important virulence factor for Pierce's disease development in grape and that depletion of the O-antigen compromises its ability to colonize the host. It has long been speculated that cell-surface polysaccharides play a role in X. fastidiosa virulence and this study confirms that LPS is a major virulence factor for this important agricultural pathogen.