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Summary

The pectinolytic Dickeya spp. are soft-rot Gram-negative bacteria that cause severe disease in a wide range of plant species. In recent years, there has been an increase in the damage caused by Dickeya in potato crops in Europe. Soft-rot symptoms are due to the production and secretion of degradative enzymes that destroy the plant cell wall. However, an efficient colonization of the host plant requires many additional bacterial factors, including elements in the early stages allowing for the adhesion and penetration of the bacteria in the plant and different elements in the intermediate stages, involved in the adaptation to the new growth conditions encountered in the host. Dickeya pathogenicity is clearly a multifactorial process, and successful infection by these bacteria requires a temporal coordination of survival and virulence gene expression. This involves the ancestral nucleoid-associated proteins, Fis and H-NS, and modifications of DNA topology, as well as various specific regulatory systems, including a new quorum-sensing pathway and regulators that sense the bacterial metabolic status or environmental stresses. This review presents new information concerning the ecology of Dickeya and the strategies used by this bacterium to coordinate its survival and virulence programmes during infection.