What does it take to be a plant pathogen: genomic insights from Streptomyces species
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- Bignell, D.R.D., Huguet-Tapia, J.C., Joshi, M.V. et al. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (2010) 98: 179. doi:10.1007/s10482-010-9429-1
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Plant pathogenicity is rare in the genus Streptomyces, with only a dozen or so species possessing this trait out of the more than 900 species described. Nevertheless, such species have had a significant impact on agricultural economies throughout the world due to their ability to cause important crop diseases such as potato common scab, which is characterized by lesions that form on the potato tuber surface. All pathogenic species that cause common scab produce a family of phytotoxins called the thaxtomins, which function as cellulose synthesis inhibitors. In addition, the nec1 and tomA genes are conserved in several pathogenic streptomycetes, the former of which is predicted to function in the suppression of plant defense responses. Streptomyces scabies is the oldest plant pathogen described and has a world-wide distribution, whereas species such as S. turgidiscabies and S. acidiscabies are believed to be newly emergent pathogens found in more limited geographical locations. The genome sequence of S. scabies 87-22 was recently completed, and comparative genomic analyses with other sequenced microbial pathogens have revealed the presence of additional genes that may play a role in plant pathogenicity, an idea that is supported by functional analysis of one such putative virulence locus. In addition, the availability of multiple genome sequences for both pathogenic and nonpathogenic streptomycetes has provided an opportunity for comparative genomic analyses to identify the Streptomyces pathogenome. Such genomic analyses will contribute to the fundamental understanding of the mechanisms and evolution of plant pathogenicity and plant-microbe biology within this genus.