Ectopic Expression of Xylella fastidiosa rpfF Conferring Production of Diffusible Signal Factor in Transgenic Tobacco and Citrus Alters Pathogen Behavior and Reduces Disease Severity
The pathogenicity of Xylella fastidiosa is associated with its ability to colonize the xylem of host plants. Expression of genes contributing to xylem colonization are suppressed, while those necessary for insect vector acquisition are increased with increasing concentrations of diffusible signal factor (DSF), whose production is dependent on RpfF. We previously demonstrated that transgenic citrus plants ectopically expressing rpfF from a citrus strain of X. fastidiosa subsp. pauca exhibited less susceptibility to Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri, another pathogen whose virulence is modulated by DSF accumulation. Here, we demonstrate that ectopic expression of rpfF in both transgenic tobacco and sweet orange also confers a reduction in disease severity incited by X. fastidiosa and reduces its colonization of those plants. Decreased disease severity in the transgenic plants was generally associated with increased expression of genes conferring adhesiveness to the pathogen and decreased expression of genes necessary for active motility, accounting for the reduced population sizes achieved in the plants, apparently by limiting pathogen dispersal through the plant. Plant-derived DSF signal molecules in a host plant can, therefore, be exploited to interfere with more than one pathogen whose virulence is controlled by DSF signaling.