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Soft rot bacteria of the Pectobacterium and Dickeya genera are Gram-negative phytopathogens that produce and secrete plant cell wall-degrading enzymes (PCWDE), the actions of which lead to rotting and decay of their hosts in the field and in storage. Host chemical signals are among the factors that induce the bacteria into extracellular enzyme production and virulence. A class of compounds (Class I) made up of intermediate products of cell wall (pectin) degradation induce exoenzyme synthesis through KdgR, a global negative regulator of exoenzyme production. While the KdgR− mutant of P. carotovorum is no longer inducible by Class I inducers, we demonstrated that exoenzyme production is induced in this strain in the presence of extracts from hosts including celery, potato, carrot, and tomato, suggesting that host plants contain another class of compounds (Class II inducers) different from the plant cell wall-degradative products that work through KdgR. The Class II inducers are thermostable, water-soluble, diffusible, and dialysable through 1 kDa molecular weight cut off pore size membranes, and could be a target for soft rot disease management strategies.

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