Conjugative Plasmid Transfer in Xylella fastidiosa Is Dependent on tra and trb Operon Functions
The insect-transmitted plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa is capable of efficient horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and recombination. Natural transformation occurs at high rates in X. fastidiosa, but there also is evidence that certain strains of X. fastidiosa carry native plasmids equipped with transfer and mobilization genes, suggesting conjugation as an additional mechanism of HGT in some instances. Two operons, tra and trb, putatively encoding a conjugative type IV secretion system, are found in some but not all X. fastidiosa isolates, often on native plasmids. X. fastidiosa strains that carry the conjugative transfer genes can belong to different subspecies and frequently differ in host ranges. Using X. fastidiosa strain M23 (X. fastidiosa subsp. fastidiosa) or Dixon (X. fastidiosa subsp. multiplex) as the donor strain and Temecula (X. fastidiosa subsp. fastidiosa) as the recipient strain, plasmid transfer was characterized using the mobilizable broad-host-range vector pBBR5pemIK. Transfer of plasmid pBBR5pemIK was observed under in vitro conditions with both donor strains and was dependent on both tra and trb operon functions. A conjugative mechanism likely contributes to gene transfer between diverse strains of X. fastidiosa, possibly facilitating adaptation to new environments or different hosts.