We have shown previously that the glucose PTS (phosphotransferase system) permease enzyme II of Spiroplasma citri is split into two distinct polypeptides, which are encoded by two separate genes, crr and ptsG. A S. citri mutant was obtained by disruption of ptsG through homologous recombination and was proved unable to import glucose. The ptsG mutant (GII3-glc1) was transmitted to periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) plants through injection to the leaf-hopper vector. In contrast to the previously characterized fructose operon mutant GMT 553, which was found virtually nonpathogenic, the ptsG mutant GII3-glc1 induced severe symptoms similar to those induced by the wild-type strain GII-3. These results, indicating that fructose and glucose utilization were not equally involved in pathogenicity, were consistent with biochemical data showing that, in the presence of both sugars, S. citri used fructose preferentially. Proton nuclear magnetic resonance analyses of carbohydrates in plant extracts revealed the accumulation of soluble sugars, particularly glucose, in plants infected by S. citri GII-3 or GII3-glc1 but not in those infected by GMT 553. From these data, a hypothetical model was proposed to establish the relationship between fructose utilization by the spiroplasmas present in the phloem sieve tubes and glucose accumulation in the leaves of S. citri infected plants.
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