The plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum, which causes bacterial wilt disease, is exposed to reactive oxygen species (ROS) during tomato infection and expresses diverse oxidative stress response (OSR) genes during midstage disease on tomato. The R. solanacearum genome predicts that the bacterium produces multiple and redundant ROS-scavenging enzymes but only one known oxidative stress response regulator, OxyR. An R. solanacearum oxyR mutant had no detectable catalase activity, did not grow in the presence of 250 μM hydrogen peroxide, and grew poorly in the oxidative environment of solid rich media. This phenotype was rescued by the addition of exogenous catalase, suggesting that oxyR is essential for the hydrogen peroxide stress response. Unexpectedly, the oxyR mutant strain grew better than the wild type in the presence of the superoxide generator paraquat. Gene expression studies indicated that katE, kaG, ahpC1, grxC, and oxyR itself were each differentially expressed in the oxyR mutant background and in response to hydrogen peroxide, suggesting that oxyR is necessary for hydrogen peroxide-inducible gene expression. Additional OSR genes were differentially regulated in response to hydrogen peroxide alone. The virulence of the oxyR mutant strain was significantly reduced in both tomato and tobacco host plants, demonstrating that R. solanacearum is exposed to inhibitory concentrations of ROS in planta and that OxyR-mediated responses to ROS during plant pathogenesis are important for R. solanacearum host adaptation and virulence.
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