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Pectobacterium carotovorum is a gram-negative bacterium that, together with other soft rot Enterobacteriaceae causes soft rot disease in vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants through the action of exoproteins including plant cell wall-degrading enzymes (PCWDEs). Although pathogenicity in these bacteria is complex, virulence levels are proportional to the levels of plant cell wall-degrading exoenzymes (PCWDEs) secreted. Two low enzyme-producing transposon Tn5 mutants were isolated, and compared to their parent KD100, the mutants were less virulent on celery petioles and carrot disks. The inactivated gene responsible for the reduced virulence phenotype in both mutants was identified as wcaG. The gene, wcaG (previously denoted fcl) encodes NAD-dependent epimerase/dehydratase, a homologue of GDP-fucose synthetase of Escherichia coli. In Escherichia coli, GDP-fucose synthetase is involved in the biosynthesis of the exopolysaccharide, colanic acid (CA). The wcaG mutants of P. carotovorum formed an enhanced level of biofilm in comparison to their parent. In the hydrophobicity test the mutants showed more hydrophobicity than the parent in hexane and hexadecane as solvents. Complementation of the mutants with extrachromosomal copies of the wild type gene restored these functions to parental levels. These data indicate that NAD-dependent epimerase/dehydratase plays a vital rule in cell surface properties, exoenzyme production, and virulence in P. carotovorum.

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