Acidovorax citrulli is the causal agent of bacterial fruit blotch of cucurbits. We have shown that functional type IV pili (T4P) are required for full virulence of this bacterium. To identify A. citrulli genes required for T4P activity, we screened a library of about 10,000 transposon mutants of A. citrulli M6 for altered T4P-mediated twitching motility. This screen led to the identification of 50 mutants impaired in twitching ability due to transposon insertions into 20 different genes. Representative mutants with disruptions in these genes were further characterized. All mutants were compromised in their virulence in seed transmission and stem inoculation assays and had reduced biofilm formation ability relative to wild-type M6. When grown on nutrient agar, most mutants produced colonies with a translucent and fuzzy appearance, in contrast to the opaque and smooth appearance of wild-type colonies. The colony morphology of these mutants was identical to that of previously reported phenotypic variants of strain M6. The exceptions were M6 mutants disrupted in genes tonB, pilT, pilW, and pilX that exhibited typical wild-type colony morphology, although lacking twitching haloes surrounding the colony. Transmission electron microscopy revealed that most mutants lacked the ability to produce T4P. The exceptions were mutants with disruptions in tonB, pilT, pilW, and pilX genes that were shown to produce these appendages. These findings support the idea that colony phenotypic variation in A. citrulli is determined by the lack of ability to synthesize T4P but not by lack of T4P functionality.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: This work was funded by the Israel Science Foundation grant 851/14.
© 2018 The American Phytopathological Society.