• Open Access

The outer membrane protein TolC is required for phytoalexin resistance and virulence of the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora


*E-mail; Tel. (+49) 421 200 3245; Fax (+49) 421 200 3249.


Erwinia amylovora causes fire blight on several plant species such as apple and pear, which produce diverse phytoalexins as defence mechanisms. An evolutionary successful pathogen thus must develop resistance mechanisms towards these toxic compounds. The E. amylovora outer membrane protein, TolC, might mediate phytoalexin resistance through its interaction with the multidrug efflux pump, AcrAB. To prove this, a tolC mutant and an acrB/tolC double mutant were constructed. The minimal inhibitory concentrations of diverse antimicrobials and phytoalexins were determined for these mutants and compared with that of a previously generated acrB mutant. The tolC and arcB/tolC mutants were considerably more susceptible than the wild type but showed similar levels as the acrB mutant. The results clearly indicated that neither TolC nor AcrAB significantly interacted with other transport systems during the efflux of the tested toxic compounds. Survival and virulence assays on inoculated apple plants showed that pathogenicity and the ability of E. amylovora to colonize plant tissue were equally impaired by mutations of tolC and acrB/tolC. Our results allowed the conclusion that TolC plays an important role as a virulence and fitness factor of E. amylovora by mediating resistance towards phytoalexins through its exclusive interaction with AcrAB.