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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identification of tomato plant as a novel host model for Burkholderia pseudomallei

Yian Hoon Lee1, Yahua Chen1, Xuezhi Ouyang3 and Yunn-Hwen Gan12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, 8 Medical Drive, 117597, Singapore

2 Immunology Program, National University of Singapore, 28 Medical Drive, 117456, Singapore

3 Microscopy and Imaging Facilities, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, 1 Research Link, 117604, Singapore

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-28

Published: 29 January 2010



Burkholderia pseudomallei is the causative agent for melioidosis, a disease with significant mortality and morbidity in endemic regions. Its versatility as a pathogen is reflected in its relatively huge 7.24 Mb genome and the presence of many virulence factors including three Type Three Secretion Systems known as T3SS1, T3SS2 and T3SS3. Besides being a human pathogen, it is able to infect and cause disease in many different animals and alternative hosts such as C. elegans.


Its host range is further extended to include plants as we demonstrated the ability of B. pseudomallei and the closely related species B. thailandensis to infect susceptible tomato but not rice plants. Bacteria were found to multiply intercellularly and were found in the xylem vessels of the vascular bundle. Disease is substantially attenuated upon infection with bacterial mutants deficient in T3SS1 or T3SS2 and slightly attenuated upon infection with the T3SS3 mutant. This shows the importance of both T3SS1 and T3SS2 in bacterial pathogenesis in susceptible plants.


The potential of B. pseudomallei as a plant pathogen raises new possibilities of exploiting plant as an alternative host for novel anti-infectives or virulence factor discovery. It also raises issues of biosecurity due to its classification as a potential bioterrorism agent.