Albicidin phytotoxins are pathogenicity factors in a devastating disease of sugarcane known as leaf scald, caused by Xanthomonas albilineans. A gene (albD) from Pantoea dispersa has been cloned and sequenced and been shown to code for a peptide of 235 amino acids that detoxifies albicidin. The gene shows no significant homology at the DNA or protein level to any known sequence, but the gene product contains a GxSxG motif that is conserved in serine hydrolases. The AlbD protein, purified to homogeneity by means of a glutathione S-transferase gene fusion system, showed strong esterase activity on p-nitrophenyl butyrate and released hydrophilic products during detoxification of albicidins. AlbD hydrolysis of p-nitrophenyl butyrate and detoxification of albicidins required no complex cofactors. Both processes were strongly inhibited by phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride, a serine enzyme inhibitor. These data strongly suggest that AlbD is an albicidin hydrolase. The enzyme detoxifies albicidins efficiently over a pH range from 5.8 to 8.0, with a broad temperature optimum from 15 to 35 degrees C. Expression of albD in transformed X. albilineans strains abolished the capacity to release albicidin toxins and to incite disease symptoms in sugarcane. The gene is a promising candidate for transfer into sugarcane to confer a form of disease resistance.
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