Intercellular and intracellular signalling systems that globally control the expression of virulence genes in plant pathogenic bacteria
Plant pathogenic bacteria utilize complex signalling systems to control the expression of virulence genes at the cellular level and within populations. Quorum sensing (QS), an important intercellular communication mechanism, is mediated by different types of small molecules, including N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs), fatty acids and small proteins. AHL-mediated signalling systems dependent on the LuxI and LuxR family proteins play critical roles in the virulence of a wide range of Gram-negative plant pathogenic bacteria belonging to the Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria. Xanthomonas spp. and Xylella fastidiosa, members of the Gammaproteobacteria, however, possess QS systems that are mediated by fatty acid-type diffusible signal factors (DSFs). Recent studies have demonstrated that Ax21, a 194-amino-acid protein in Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, plays dual functions in activating a rice innate immune pathway through binding to the rice XA21 pattern recognition receptor and in regulating bacterial virulence and biofilm formation as a QS signal molecule. In xanthomonads, DSF-mediated QS systems are connected with the signalling pathways mediated by cyclic diguanosine monophosphate (c-di-GMP), which functions as a second messenger for the control of virulence gene expression in these bacterial pathogens.