The life history of the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae is linked to the water cycle

ISME J. 2008 Mar;2(3):321-34. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2007.113. Epub 2008 Jan 10.


Pseudomonas syringae is a plant pathogen well known for its capacity to grow epiphytically on diverse plants and for its ice-nucleation activity. The ensemble of its known biology and ecology led us to postulate that this bacterium is also present in non-agricultural habitats, particularly those associated with water. Here, we report the abundance of P. syringae in rain, snow, alpine streams and lakes and in wild plants, in addition to the previously reported abundance in epilithic biofilms. Each of these substrates harbored strains that corresponded to P. syringae in terms of biochemical traits, pathogenicity and pathogenicity-related factors and that were ice-nucleation active. Phylogenetic comparisons of sequences of four housekeeping genes of the non-agricultural strains with strains of P. syringae from disease epidemics confirmed their identity as P. syringae. Moreover, strains belonging to the same clonal lineage were isolated from snow, irrigation water and a diseased crop plant. Our data suggest that the different substrates harboring P. syringae modify the structure of the associated populations. Here, we propose a comprehensive life cycle for P. syringae--in agricultural and non-agricultural habitats--driven by the environmental cycle of water. This cycle opens the opportunity to evaluate the importance of non-agricultural habitats in the evolution of a plant pathogen and the emergence of virulence. The ice-nucleation activity of all strains from snow, unlike from other substrates, strongly suggests that P. syringae plays an active role in the water cycle as an ice nucleus in clouds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Beta vulgaris / microbiology
  • Cucumis / microbiology
  • Ecosystem
  • Genotype
  • Ice
  • Lettuce / microbiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology*
  • Pseudomonas syringae / classification
  • Pseudomonas syringae / genetics
  • Pseudomonas syringae / growth & development*
  • Pseudomonas syringae / isolation & purification
  • Rain / microbiology*
  • Rivers / microbiology*
  • Snow / microbiology*
  • Tobacco / microbiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Ice