The Xanthomonas citri pv. citri (X. citri) is a phytopathogenic bacterium that infects different species of citrus plants where it causes canker disease. The adaptation to different habitats is related to the ability of the cells to metabolize and to assimilate diverse compounds, including sulfur, an essential element for all organisms. In Escherichia coli, the necessary sulfur can be obtained by a set of proteins whose genes belong to the cys regulon. Although the cys regulon proteins and their importance have been described in many other bacteria, there are no data related to these proteins in X. citri or in the Xanthomonas genus. The study of the relevance of these systems in these phytopathogenic bacteria that have distinct mechanisms of infection is one essential step toward understanding their physiology. In this work, we used bioinformatics, molecular modeling and transcription analysis (RT-PCR) to identify and characterize the putative cys regulon genes in X. citri.
We showed that the ATP Binding Cassette Transporter (ABC transporter) SbpCysUWA for sulfate uptake is conserved in X. citri and translated in presence of sulfate. On the other hand, differently from what is predicted in databases, according molecular modeling and phylogenetic analysis, X. citri does not show a proper taurine transporter, but two different ABC systems related to the alkanesulfonate/sulfonate transport that were recently acquired during evolution. RT-PCR analysis evidenced that these genes and their putative transcriptional regulator CysB are rather transcripted in XAM1, a medium with defined concentration of sulfate, than LB.
The presence of at least three distinct systems for sulfate and sulfonates assimilation in X. citri evidenced the importance of these compounds for the bacterium. The transcription of genes involved with alkanesulfonate/sulfur compounds in XAM1 along to CysB suggests that despite the differences in the transporters, the regulation of these systems might be similar to the described for E. coli. Altogether, these results will serve as a foundation for further studies aimed to understanding the relevance of sulfur in growth, virulence and pathogenesis of X. citri and related bacteria.