Biosynthesis and regulation of coronatine, a non-host-specific phytotoxin produced by Pseudomonas syringae

Subcell Biochem. 1998;29:321-41. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4899-1707-2_10.


Many P. syringae pathovars are known to produce low-molecular-weight, diffusible toxins in infected host plants. These phytotoxins reproduce some of the symptoms of the relevant bacterial disease and are effective at very low concentrations. Phytotoxins generally enhance the virulence of the P. syringae pathovar which produces them, but are not required for pathogenesis. Genes encoding phytotoxin production have been identified and cloned from several P. syringae pathovars. With the exception of coronatine, toxin biosynthetic gene clusters are generally chromosomally encoded. In several pathovars, the toxin biosynthetic gene cluster also contains a resistance gene which functions to protect the producing strain from the biocidal effects of the toxin. In the case of phaseolotoxin, a resistance gene (argK) has been utilized to engineer phaseolotoxin-resistant tobacco plants. Although P. syringae phytotoxins can induce very similar effects in plants (chlorosis and necrosis), their biosynthesis and mode of action can be quite different. Knowledge of the biosynthetic pathways to these toxins and the cloning of the structural genes for their biosynthesis has relevance to the development of new bioactive compounds with altered specificity. For example, polyketides constitute a huge family of structurally diverse natural products including antibiotics, chemotherapeutic compounds, and antiparasitics. Most of the research on polyketide synthesis in bacteria has focused on compounds synthesized by Streptomyces or other actinomycetes. It is also important to note that it is now possible to utilize a genetic rather than synthetic approach to biosynthesize novel polyketides with altered biological properties (Hutchinson and Fujii, 1995; Kao et al., 1994; Donadio et al., 1993; Katz and Donadio, 1993). Most of the reprogramming or engineering of novel polyketides has been done using actinomycete PKSs, but much of this technology could also be applied to polyketides synthesized by Pseudomonas when sufficient sequence information is available. It is important to note that Pseudomonas produces a variety of antimicrobial compounds from the polyketide pathway, including mupirocin (pseudomonic acid) (Feline et al., 1977), pyoluteorin (Cuppels et al., 1986), and 2-4 diacetylphloroglucinol (Phl) (Bangera and Thomashow, 1996). Pseudomonic acid is valued for its pharmaceutical properties as an antibiotic (Aldridge, 1992), whereas pyoluteorin and Phl have antifungal properties (Howell and Stipanovic, 1980; Keel et al., 1992). A thorough understanding of the biosynthetic pathway to polyketide phytotoxins such as coronatine may ultimately lead to the development of novel compounds with altered biological properties. Thus, specific genes in the biosynthetic pathways of P. syringae phytotoxins could be deployed in other systems to develop new compounds with a wide range of activities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Toxins / biosynthesis*
  • Bacterial Toxins / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Indenes / metabolism*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Pseudomonas / genetics
  • Pseudomonas / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Indenes
  • coronatine