Natural Competence and Recombination in the Plant Pathogen Xylella fastidiosa
Homologous recombination is one of many forces contributing to the diversity, adaptation, and emergence of pathogens. For naturally competent bacteria, transformation is one possible route for the acquisition of novel genetic material. This study demonstrates that Xylella fastidiosa, a generalist bacterial plant pathogen responsible for many emerging plant diseases, is naturally competent and able to homologously recombine exogenous DNA into its genome. Several factors that affect transformation and recombination efficiencies, such as nutrient availability, growth stage, and methylation of transforming DNA, were identified. Recombination was observed in at least one out of every 106 cells when exogenous plasmid DNA was supplied and one out of every 107 cells when different strains were grown together in vitro. Based on previous genomic studies and experimental data presented here, there is mounting evidence that recombination can occur at relatively high rates and could play a large role in shaping the genetic diversity of X. fastidiosa.