Comparative transcriptomic studies identify specific expression patterns of virulence factors under the control of the master regulator PhcA in the Ralstonia solanacearum species complex

Microb Pathog. 2018 Mar;116:273-278. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2018.01.028. Epub 2018 Feb 20.


The global regulator PhcA controls numerous traits associated to virulence and bacterial proliferation in strains of the plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum species complex. Here, we conducted a genome-wide RNA sequencing study of the GMI1000 wild-type strain and a derived phcA mutant grown in complete medium. The PhcA regulon we identified is the largest regulon described to date in the R. solanacearum species complex with 1581 regulated genes, representing about 30% of the bacterial genome. Among these genes, 166 transcription regulators were identified including known regulators controlling major cellular functions such as the Type 3 secretion system and 27 novel regulators that were not identified in previous transcriptomic studies. This study highlights that PhcA controls other functions beside pathogenicity stricto sensu which participate to the global cell homeostasis (metabolism, energy storage). We then compared the PhcA regulon identified in complete medium to the recently published PhcA regulon obtained in planta. This comparison of the set of GMI1000 genes subjected to PhcA regulation in both conditions revealed 383 common genes. Among them, 326 (85%) had a similar PhcA dependent regulation pattern in complete medium and in planta, and 57 (15%) displayed an opposite regulation pattern. A large majority of the genes repressed by PhcA in complete medium but activated in planta belong to the HrpG-HrpB regulon, which represents a set of key genes required for R. solanacearum pathogenesis. This latter class of genes appears to be specifically induced by PhcA in the plant environment whereas PhcA represses their expression in complete medium. The large set of direct and indirect targets identified in this study will contribute to enrich our knowledge of the intricate regulatory network coordinating the expression of virulence and metabolic functions in the model plant pathogen R. solanacearum.

Keywords: Bacterial wilt; Plant pathogen; Quorum sensing; RNA-seq; Regulation; Type 3 secretion system.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Ralstonia solanacearum / genetics*
  • Regulon
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Virulence Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Virulence Factors / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • PhcA protein, Ralstonia solanacearum
  • Transcription Factors
  • Virulence Factors