T6SS contributes to gut microbiome invasion and killing of an herbivorous pest insect by plant-beneficial Pseudomonas protegens

ISME J. 2019 May;13(5):1318-1329. doi: 10.1038/s41396-019-0353-8. Epub 2019 Jan 25.


Pseudomonas protegens are multi-talented plant-colonizing bacteria that suppress plant pathogens and stimulate plant defenses. In addition, they are capable of invading and killing agriculturally important plant pest insects that makes them promising candidates for biocontrol applications. Here we assessed the role of type VI secretion system (T6SS) components of type strain CHA0 during interaction with larvae of the cabbage pest Pieris brassicae. We show that the T6SS core apparatus and two VgrG modules, encompassing the respective T6SS spikes (VgrG1a and VgrG1b) and associated effectors (RhsA and Ghh1), contribute significantly to insect pathogenicity of P. protegens in oral infection assays but not when bacteria are injected directly into the hemolymph. Monitoring of the colonization levels of P. protegens in the gut, hemolymph, and excrements of the insect larvae revealed that the invader relies on T6SS and VgrG1a module function to promote hemocoel invasion. A 16S metagenomic analysis demonstrated that T6SS-supported invasion by P. protegens induces significant changes in the insect gut microbiome affecting notably Enterobacteriaceae, a dominant group of the commensal gut bacteria. Our study supports the concept that pathogens deploy T6SS-based strategies to disrupt the commensal microbiota in order to promote host colonization and pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Insecta / microbiology*
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Larva / microbiology
  • Larva / physiology
  • Pseudomonas / genetics
  • Pseudomonas / physiology*
  • Symbiosis
  • Type VI Secretion Systems / genetics
  • Type VI Secretion Systems / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Type VI Secretion Systems