The plant pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae (Ps), together with related Ps species, infects and attacks a wide range of agronomically important crops, including tomato, kiwifruit, pepper, olive and soybean, causing economic losses. Currently, chemicals and introduced resistance genes are used to protect plants against these pathogens but have limited success and may have adverse environmental impacts. Consequently, there is a pressing need to develop alternative strategies to combat bacterial disease in crops. One such strategy involves using narrow-spectrum protein antibiotics (so-called bacteriocins), which diverse bacteria use to compete against closely related species. Here, we demonstrate that one bacteriocin, putidacin L1 (PL1), can be expressed in an active form at high levels in Arabidopsis and in Nicotiana benthamiana in planta to provide effective resistance against diverse pathovars of Ps. Furthermore, we find that Ps strains that mutate to acquire tolerance to PL1 lose their O-antigen, exhibit reduced motility and still cannot induce disease symptoms in PL1-transgenic Arabidopsis. Our results provide proof-of-principle that the transgene-mediated expression of a bacteriocin in planta can provide effective disease resistance to bacterial pathogens. Thus, the expression of bacteriocins in crops might offer an effective strategy for managing bacterial disease, in the same way that the genetic modification of crops to express insecticidal proteins has proven to be an extremely successful strategy for pest management. Crucially, nearly all genera of bacteria, including many plant pathogenic species, produce bacteriocins, providing an extensive source of these antimicrobial agents.
- disease resistance antimicrobial peptide
- putidacin L1