A «Repertoire for Repertoire» Hypothesis: Repertoires of Type Three Effectors are Candidate Determinants of Host Specificity in <italic>Xanthomonas</italic>
The genetic basis of host specificity for animal and plant pathogenic bacteria remains poorly understood. For plant pathogenic bacteria, host range is restricted to one or a few host plant species reflecting a tight adaptation to specific hosts.
Two hypotheses can be formulated to explain host specificity: either it can be explained by the phylogenetic position of the strains, or by the association of virulence genes enabling a pathological convergence of phylogenically distant strains. In this latter hypothesis, host specificity would result from the interaction between repertoires of bacterial virulence genes and repertoires of genes involved in host defences. To challenge these two hypotheses, we selected 132 Xanthomonas axonopodis strains representative of 18 different pathovars which display different host range. First, the phylogenetic position of each strain was determined by sequencing the housekeeping gene rpoD. This study showed that many pathovars of Xanthomonas axonopodis are polyphyletic. Second, we investigated the distribution of 35 type III effector genes (T3Es) in these strains by both PCR and hybridization methods. Indeed, for pathogenic bacteria T3Es were shown to trigger and to subvert host defences. Our study revealed that T3E repertoires comprise core and variable gene suites that likely have distinct roles in pathogenicity and different evolutionary histories. Our results showed a correspondence between composition of T3E repertoires and pathovars of Xanthomonas axonopodis. For polyphyletic pathovars, this suggests that T3E genes might explain a pathological convergence of phylogenetically distant strains. We also identified several DNA rearrangements within T3E genes, some of which correlate with host specificity of strains.
These data provide insight into the potential role played by T3E genes for pathogenic bacteria and support a “repertoire for repertoire” hypothesis that may explain host specificity. Our work provides resources for functional and evolutionary studies aiming at understanding host specificity of pathogenic bacteria, functional redundancy between T3Es and the driving forces shaping T3E repertoires.
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