Genetic and Functional Diversity Help Explain Pathogenic, Weakly Pathogenic, and Commensal Lifestyles in the Genus Xanthomonas

Genome Biol Evol. 2024 Apr 2;16(4):evae074. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evae074.


The genus Xanthomonas has been primarily studied for pathogenic interactions with plants. However, besides host and tissue-specific pathogenic strains, this genus also comprises nonpathogenic strains isolated from a broad range of hosts, sometimes in association with pathogenic strains, and other environments, including rainwater. Based on their incapacity or limited capacity to cause symptoms on the host of isolation, nonpathogenic xanthomonads can be further characterized as commensal and weakly pathogenic. This study aimed to understand the diversity and evolution of nonpathogenic xanthomonads compared to their pathogenic counterparts based on their cooccurrence and phylogenetic relationship and to identify genomic traits that form the basis of a life history framework that groups xanthomonads by ecological strategies. We sequenced genomes of 83 strains spanning the genus phylogeny and identified eight novel species, indicating unexplored diversity. While some nonpathogenic species have experienced a recent loss of a type III secretion system, specifically the hrp2 cluster, we observed an apparent lack of association of the hrp2 cluster with lifestyles of diverse species. We performed association analysis on a large data set of 337 Xanthomonas strains to explain how xanthomonads may have established association with the plants across the continuum of lifestyles from commensals to weak pathogens to pathogens. Presence of distinct transcriptional regulators, distinct nutrient utilization and assimilation genes, transcriptional regulators, and chemotaxis genes may explain lifestyle-specific adaptations of xanthomonads.

Keywords: association analysis; cell wall–degrading enzymes; commensal; gene flow; hrp2 cluster; nonpathogenic xanthomonads.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Symbiosis
  • Xanthomonas* / classification
  • Xanthomonas* / genetics
  • Xanthomonas* / pathogenicity