Phenotypic variation in the plant pathogenic bacterium Acidovorax citrulli.

Ram Kumar Shrestha*, Tally Rosenberg, Daria Makarovsky, Noam Eckshtain-Levi, Einat Zelinger, June Kopelowitz, Johannes Sikorski, Saul Burdman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Acidovorax citrulli causes bacterial fruit blotch (BFB) of cucurbits, a disease that threatens the cucurbit industry worldwide. Despite the economic importance of BFB, little is known about pathogenicity and fitness strategies of the bacterium. We have observed the phenomenon of phenotypic variation in A. citrulli. Here we report the characterization of phenotypic variants (PVs) of two strains, M6 and 7a1, isolated from melon and watermelon, respectively. Phenotypic variation was observed following growth in rich medium, as well as upon isolation of bacteria from inoculated plants or exposure to several stresses, including heat, salt and acidic conditions. When grown on nutrient agar, all PV colonies possessed a translucent appearance, in contrast to parental strain colonies that were opaque. After 72 h, PV colonies were bigger than parental colonies, and had a fuzzy appearance relative to parental strain colonies that are relatively smooth. A. citrulli colonies are generally surrounded by haloes detectable by the naked eye. These haloes are formed by type IV pilus (T4P)-mediated twitching motility that occurs at the edge of the colony. No twitching haloes could be detected around colonies of both M6 and 7a1 PVs, and microscopy observations confirmed that indeed the PVs did not perform twitching motility. In agreement with these results, transmission electron microscopy revealed that M6 and 7a1 PVs do not produce T4P under tested conditions. PVs also differed from their parental strain in swimming motility and biofilm formation, and interestingly, all assessed variants were less virulent than their corresponding parental strains in seed transmission assays. Slight alterations could be detected in some DNA fingerprinting profiles of 7a1 variants relative to the parental strain, while no differences at all could be seen among M6 variants and parental strain, suggesting that, at least in the latter, phenotypic variation is mediated by slight genetic and/or epigenetic alterations.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere73189
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013


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