Identification of Xylella fastidiosa antivirulence genes: Hemagglutinin adhesins contribute to X-fastidiosa biofilm maturation and colonization and attenuate virulence
Xylella fastidosa, a gram-negative, xylem-limited bacterium, is the causal agent of several economically important plant diseases, including Pierce's disease (PD) and citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC). Until recently, the inability to transform or produce transposon mutants of X. fastidosa had been a major impediment to identifying X. fastidosa genes that mediate pathogen and plant interactions. A random transposon (Tn5) library of X. fastidosa was constructed and screened for mutants showing more severe symptoms and earlier grapevine death (hyperviru- lence) than did vines infected with the wild type. Seven hypervirulent mutants identified in this screen moved faster and reached higher populations than the wild type in grapevines. These results suggest that X. fastidosa attenuates its virulence in planta and that movement is important in X. fastidosa virulence. The mutated genes were sequenced and none had been described previously as anti-virulence genes, although six of them showed similarity with genes of known functions in other organisms. One transposon insertion inactivated a hemagglutinin adhesin gene (PD2118), which we named HxfA. Another mutant in a second putative X. fastidosa hemagglutinin gene, PD1792 (HxfB), was constructed, and further characterization of these hxf mutants suggests that X. fastidosa hemagglutinins mediate contact between X. fastidosa cells, which results in colony formation and biofilm maturation within the xylem vessels.