Analysis of expressed genes of the bacterium ' CandidatusPhytoplasma Mali' highlights key features of virulence and metabolism
Candidatus Phytoplasma mali is a phytopathogenic bacterium of the family Acholeplasmataceae assigned to the class Mollicutes. This causative agent of the apple proliferation colonizes in Malus domestica the sieve tubes of the plant phloem resulting in a range of symptoms such as witches- broom formation, reduced vigor and affecting size and quality of the crop. The disease is responsible for strong economical losses in Europe. Although the genome sequence of the pathogen is available, there is only limited information on expression of selected genes and metabolic key features that have not been examined on the transcriptomic or proteomic level so far. This situation is similar to many other phytoplasmas. In the work presented here, RNA-Seq and mass spectrometry shotgun techniques were applied on tissue samples from Nicotiana occidentalis infected by Ca. P. mali strain AT providing insights into transcriptome and proteome of the pathogen. Data analysis highlights expression of 208 genes including 14 proteins located in the terminal inverted repeats of the linear chromosome. Beside a high portion of house keeping genes, the recently discussed chaperone GroES/GroEL is expressed. Furthermore, gene expression involved in formation of a type IVB and of the Sec-dependent secretion system was identified as well as the highly expressed putative pathogenicityrelated SAP11-like effector protein. Metabolism of phytoplasmas depends on the uptake of spermidine/putescine, amino acids, co-factors, carbohydrates and in particular malate/citrate. The expression of these transporters was confirmed and the analysis of the carbohydrate cycle supports the suggested alternative energy-providing pathway for phytoplasmas releasing acetate and providing ATP. The phylogenetic analyses of malate dehydrogenase and acetate kinase in phytoplasmas show a closer relatedness to the Firmicutes in comparison to Mycoplasma species indicating an early divergence of the Acholeplasmataceae from the Mollicutes.