Regulation of Hydroxycinnamic Acid Degradation Drives Agrobacterium fabrum Lifestyles

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2018 Aug;31(8):814-822. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-10-17-0236-R. Epub 2018 Jun 22.


Regulatory factors are key components for the transition between different lifestyles to ensure rapid and appropriate gene expression upon perceiving environmental cues. Agrobacterium fabrum C58 (formerly called A. tumefaciens C58) has two contrasting lifestyles: it can interact with plants as either a rhizosphere inhabitant (rhizospheric lifestyle) or a pathogen that creates its own ecological niche in a plant tumor via its tumor-inducing plasmid (pathogenic lifestyle). Hydroxycinnamic acids are known to play an important role in the pathogenic lifestyle of Agrobacterium spp. but can be degraded in A. fabrum species. We investigated the molecular and ecological mechanisms involved in the regulation of A. fabrum species-specific genes responsible for hydroxycinnamic acid degradation. We characterized the effectors (feruloyl-CoA and p-coumaroyl-CoA) and the DNA targets of the MarR transcriptional repressor, which we named HcaR, which regulates hydroxycinnamic acid degradation. Using an hcaR-deleted strain, we further revealed that hydroxycinnamic acid degradation interfere with virulence gene expression. The HcaR deletion mutant shows a contrasting competitive colonization ability, being less abundant than the wild-type strain in tumors but more abundant in the rhizosphere. This supports the view that A. fabrum C58 HcaR regulation through ferulic and p-coumaric acid perception is important for the transition between lifestyles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agrobacterium / genetics
  • Agrobacterium / physiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Coumaric Acids / chemistry
  • Coumaric Acids / metabolism*
  • DNA
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Molecular Structure
  • Protein Binding


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Coumaric Acids
  • DNA