Phytopathogens have developed elaborate mechanisms to attenuate the defense response of their host plants, including convergent evolution of complex pathways for production of the GA phytohormones, which were actually first isolated from the rice fungal pathogen Gibberella fujikuroi. The rice bacterial pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola (Xoc) has been demonstrated to contain a biosynthetic operon with cyclases capable of producing the universal GA precursor ent-kaurene. Genetic (knock-out) studies indicate that the derived diterpenoid serves as a virulence factor for this rice leaf streak pathogen, serving to reduce the jasmonic acid-mediated defense response. Here the functions of the remaining genes in the Xoc operon are elucidated and the distribution of the operon in X. oryzae is investigated in over 100 isolates. The Xoc operon leads to production of the bioactive GA4 , an additional step beyond production of the penultimate precursor GA9 mediated by the homologous operons recently characterized from rhizobia. Moreover, this GA biosynthetic operon was found to be widespread in Xoc (> 90%), but absent in the other major X. oryzae pathovar. These results indicate selective pressure for production of GA4 in the distinct lifestyle of Xoc, and the importance of GA to both fungal and bacterial pathogens of rice.
Keywords: biogeographical distribution; cytochromes P450; gibberellin biosynthesis; plant-microbe interactions; virulence factor.
© 2017 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2017 New Phytologist Trust.