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Summary

GGDEF and EAL/HD-GYP protein domains are responsible for the synthesis and hydrolysis of the bacterial secondary messenger cyclic diguanylate (c-di-GMP) through their diguanylate cyclase and phosphodiesterase activities, respectively. Forty-three genes in Pseudomonas putida KT2440 are putatively involved in the turnover of c-di-GMP. Of them only rup4959 (locus PP4959) encodes a GGDEF/EAL response regulator, which was identified in a genome wide analysis as preferentially induced while this bacterium colonizes roots and adjacent soil areas (the rhizosphere). By using fusions to reporter genes it was confirmed that the rup4959 promoter is active in the rhizosphere and inducible by corn plant root exudates and microaerobiosis. Transcription of rup4959 was strictly dependent on the alternative transcriptional factor σS. The inactivation of the rup4959-4957 operon altered the expression of 22 genes in the rhizosphere and had a negative effect upon oligopeptide utilization and biofilm formation. In multicopy or when overexpressed, rup4959 enhanced adhesin LapA-dependent biofilm formation, the development of wrinkly colony morphology, and increased Calcofluor stainable exopolysaccharides (EPS). Under these conditions the inhibition of swarming motility was total and plant root tip colonization considerably less efficient, whereas swimming was partially diminished. This pleiotropic phenotype, which correlated with an increase in the global level of c-di-GMP, was not acquired with increased levels of Rup4959 catalytic mutant at GGDEF as a proof of this response regulator exhibiting diguanylate cyclase activity. A screen for mutants in putative targets of c-di-GMP led to the identification of a surface polysaccharide specific to KT2440, which is encoded by the genes cluster PP3133-PP3141, as essential for phenotypes associated with increased c-di-GMP. Cellulose and alginate were discarded as the overproduced EPS, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) core and O-antigen were found to be essential for the development of wrinkly colony morphology.