Pantoea ananatis is a member of the family Enterobacteriaceae and an enigmatic plant pathogen with a broad host range. Although P. ananatis strains can be aggressive on onion causing foliar necrosis and onion center rot, previous genomic analysis has shown that P. ananatis lacks the primary virulence secretion systems associated with other plant pathogens. We assessed a collection of fifty P. ananatis strains collected from Georgia over three decades to determine genetic factors that correlated with onion pathogenic potential. Previous genetic analysis studies have compared strains isolated from different hosts with varying diseases potential and isolation sources. Strains varied greatly in their pathogenic potential and aggressiveness on different cultivated Allium species like onion, leek, shallot, and chive. Using multi-locus sequence analysis (MLSA) and repetitive extragenic palindrome repeat (rep)-PCR techniques, we did not observe any correlation between onion pathogenic potential and genetic diversity among strains. Whole genome sequencing and pan-genomic analysis of a sub-set of 10 strains aided in the identification of a novel series of genetic regions, likely plasmid borne, and correlating with onion pathogenicity observed on single contigs of the genetic assemblies. We named these loci Onion Virulence Regions (OVR) A-D. The OVR loci contain genes involved in redox regulation as well as pectate lyase and rhamnogalacturonase genes. Previous studies have not identified distinct genetic loci or plasmids correlating with onion foliar pathogenicity or pathogenicity on a single host pathosystem. The lack of focus on a single host system for this phytopathgenic disease necessitates the pan-genomic analysis performed in this study.
Journal: Frontiers in microbiology