Metabolic Environments and Genomic Features Associated with Pathogenic and Mutualistic Interactions between Bacteria and Plants
Tatiana V. Karpinets, Byung H. Park, Mustafa H. Syed, Martin G. Klotz, and Edward C. Uberbacher
29 May 2014, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 27(7): 664-677; doi: 10.1094/mpmi-12-13-0368-R
Genomic characteristics discriminating parasitic and mutualistic relationship of bacterial symbionts with plants are poorly understood. This study comparatively analysed the genomes of 54 mutualists and pathogens to discover genomic markers associated with the different phenotypes. Using metabolic network models we predict external environments associated with free living and symbiotic lifestyles and quantify dependences of symbionts on the host in terms of the consumed metabolites. We show that specific differences between the phenotypes are pronounced at the levels of metabolic enzymes, especially carbohydrate active, and protein functions. Overall, biosynthetic functions are enriched and more diverse in plant mutualists while processes and functions involved in degradation and host invasion are enriched and more diverse in pathogens. A distinctive characteristic of plant pathogens is a putative novel secretion system with a circadian rhythm regulator. A specific marker of plant mutualists is the co-residence of genes encoding nitrogenase and Ribulose Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase (RuBisCO). We predict that RuBisCO is likely used in a putative metabolic pathway to supplement carbon obtained heterotrophically with low-cost assimilation of carbon from CO2. We validate results of the comparative analysis by predicting correct phenotype, pathogenic or mutualistic, for 20 symbionts in an independent set of 30 pathogens, mutualists, and commensals.