Nucleotide sequence, functional characterization and evolution of pFKN, a virulence plasmid in Pseudomonas syringae pathovar maculicola



Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola strain M6 (Psm M6) carries the avrRpm1 gene, encoding a type III effector, on a 40 kb plasmid, pFKN. We hypothesized that this plasmid might carry additional genes required for pathogenesis on plants. We report the sequence and features of pFKN. In addition to avrRpm1, pFKN carries an allele of another type III effector, termed avrPphE, and a gene of unknown function (ORF8), expression of which is induced in planta, suggesting a role in the plant–pathogen interaction. The region of pFKN carrying avrRpm1, avrPphE and ORF8 exhibits several features of pathogenicity islands (PAIs). Curing of pFKN (creating Psm M6C) caused a significant reduction in virulence on Arabidopsis leaves. However, complementation studies using Psm M6C demonstrated an obvious virulence function only for avrRpm1. pFKN can integrate and excise from the chromosome of Psm M6 at low frequency via homologous recombination between identical sequence segments located on the chromosome and on pFKN. These segments are part of two nearly identical transposons carrying avrPphE. The avrPphE transposon was also detected in other strains of P. s. pv. maculicola and in P. s. tomato strain DC3000. The avrPphE transposon was found inserted at different loci in different strains. The analysis of sequences surrounding the avrPphE transposon insertion site in the chromosome of Psm M6 indicates that pFKN integrates into a PAI that encodes type III effectors. The integration of pFKN into this chromosomal region may therefore be seen as an evolutionary process determining the formation of a new PAI in the chromosome of Psm M6.