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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The role of horizontal transfer in the evolution of a highly variable lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis locus in xanthomonads that infect rice, citrus and crucifers

Prabhu B Patil1, Adam J Bogdanove2 and Ramesh V Sonti1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad-500007, India

2 Department of Plant Pathology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa-50011, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:243  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-243

Published: 6 December 2007



Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a pathogen associated molecular pattern (PAMP) of animal and plant pathogenic bacteria. Variation at the interstrain level is common in LPS biosynthetic gene clusters of animal pathogenic bacteria. This variation has been proposed to play a role in evading the host immune system. Even though LPS is a modulator of plant defense responses, reports of interstrain variation in LPS gene clusters of plant pathogenic bacteria are rare.


In this study we report the complete sequence of a variant 19.9 kb LPS locus present in the BXO8 strain of Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo), the bacterial blight pathogen of rice. This region is completely different in size, number and organization of genes from the LPS locus present in most other strains of Xoo from India and Asia. Surprisingly, except for one ORF, all the other ORFs at the BXO8 LPS locus are orthologous to the genes present at this locus in a sequenced strain of X. axonopodis pv. citri (Xac; a pathogen of citrus plants). One end of the BXO8 LPS gene cluster, comprised of ten genes, is also present in the related rice pathogen, X. oryzae pv. oryzicola (Xoc). In Xoc, the remainder of the LPS gene cluster, consisting of seven genes, is novel and unrelated to LPS gene clusters of any of the sequenced xanthomonads. We also report substantial interstrain variation suggestive of very recent horizontal gene transfer (HGT) at the LPS biosynthetic locus of Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris (Xcc), the black rot pathogen of crucifers.


Our analyses indicate that HGT has altered the LPS locus during the evolution of Xanthomonas oryzae pathovars and suggest that the ancestor of all Xanthomonas oryzae pathovars had an Xac type of LPS gene cluster. Our finding of interstrain variation in two major xanthomonad pathogens infecting different hosts suggests that the LPS locus in plant pathogenic bacteria, as in animal pathogens, is under intense diversifying selection.