Control of primary metabolism by a virulence regulatory network promotes robustness in a plant pathogen

Nat Commun. 2018 Jan 29;9(1):418. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02660-4.


Robustness is a key system-level property of living organisms to maintain their functions while tolerating perturbations. We investigate here how a regulatory network controlling multiple virulence factors impacts phenotypic robustness of a bacterial plant pathogen. We reconstruct a cell-scale model of Ralstonia solanacearum connecting a genome-scale metabolic network, a virulence macromolecule network, and a virulence regulatory network, which includes 63 regulatory components. We develop in silico methods to quantify phenotypic robustness under a broad set of conditions in high-throughput simulation analyses. This approach reveals that the virulence regulatory network exerts a control of the primary metabolism to promote robustness upon infection. The virulence regulatory network plugs into the primary metabolism mainly through the control of genes likely acquired via horizontal gene transfer, which results in a functional overlay with ancestral genes. These results support the view that robustness may be a selected trait that promotes pathogenic fitness upon infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / genetics*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics*
  • Ralstonia solanacearum / genetics*
  • Ralstonia solanacearum / metabolism
  • Virulence / genetics*
  • Virulence Factors / genetics*
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • Virulence Factors