Pseudomonas syringae addresses distinct environmental challenges during plant infection through the coordinated deployment of polysaccharides

Prior to infection, phytopathogenic bacteria face a challenging environment on the plant surface, where they are exposed to nutrient starvation and abiotic stresses. Pathways enabling surface adhesion, stress tolerance, and epiphytic survival are important for successful plant pathogenesis. Understanding the roles and regulation of these pathways is therefore crucial to fully understand bacterial plant infections. The phytopathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) encodes multiple polysaccharides that are implicated in biofilm formation, stress survival, and virulence in other microbes. To examine how these polysaccharides impact Pst epiphytic survival and pathogenesis, we analysed mutants in multiple polysaccharide loci to determine their intersecting contributions to epiphytic survival and infection. In parallel, we used qRT–PCR to analyse the regulation of each pathway. Pst polysaccharides are tightly coordinated by multiple environmental signals. Nutrient availability, temperature, and surface association strongly affect the expression of different polysaccharides under the control of the signalling protein genes ladS and cbrB and the second messenger cyclic-di-GMP. Furthermore, functionally redundant, combinatorial phenotypes were observed for several polysaccharides. Exopolysaccharides play a role in mediating leaf adhesion, while α-glucan and alginate together confer desiccation tolerance. Our results suggest that polysaccharides play important roles in overcoming environmental challenges to Pst during plant infection.