Role of Cyclic di-GMP in Xylella fastidiosa Biofilm Formation, Plant Virulence, and Insect Transmission
Xylella fastidiosa must coordinately regulate a variety of traits contributing to biofilm formation, host plant and vector colonization, and transmission between plants. Traits such as production of extracellular polysaccharides (EPS), adhesins, extracellular enzymes, and pili are expressed in a cell-density-dependent fashion mediated by a cell-to-cell signaling system involving a fatty acid diffusible signaling factor (DSF). The expression of gene PD0279 (which has a GGDEF domain) is downregulated in the presence of DSF and may be involved in intracellular signaling by modulating the levels of cyclic di-GMP. PD0279, designated cyclic di-GMP synthase A (cgsA), is required for biofilm formation, plant virulence, and vector transmission. cgsA mutants exhibited a hyperadhesive phenotype in vitro and overexpressed gumJ, hxfA, hxfB, xadA, and fimA, which promote attachment of cells to surfaces and, hence, biofilm formation. The mutants were greatly reduced in virulence to grape albeit still transmissible by insect vectors, although at a reduced level compared with transmission rates of the wild-type strain, despite the fact that similar numbers of cells of the cgsA mutant were acquired by the insects from infected plants. High levels of EPS were measured in cgsA mutants compared with wild-type strains, and scanning electron microscopy analysis also revealed a thicker amorphous layer surrounding the mutants. Overexpression of cgsA in a cgsA-complemented mutant conferred the opposite phenotypes in vitro. These results suggest that decreases of cyclic di-GMP result from the accumulation of DSF as cell density increases, leading to a phenotypic transition from a planktonic state capable of colonizing host plants to an adhesive state that is insect transmissible.