When analysing the secretome of the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) DC3000, we identified hemolysin co-regulated protein (Hcp) as one of the secreted proteins. Hcp is assumed to be an extracellular component of the type VI secretion system (T6SS). Two copies of hcp genes are present in the Pst DC3000 genome, hcp1 (PSPTO_2539) and hcp2 (PSPTO_5435). We studied the expression patterns of hcp genes and tested the fitness of hcp knock-out mutants in host plant colonization and in inter-microbial competition. We found that the hcp2 gene is expressed, most actively at the stationary growth phase, and that the Hcp2 protein is secreted via T6SS and appears in the culture medium as covalently linked dimers. Expression of hcp2 is not induced in planta and it does not contribute to virulence or colonisation in tomato or Arabidopsis plants. Instead, hcp2 is required for survival in competition with enterobacteria and yeasts, and its function is associated with suppression of the growth of these competitors. This is the first report on bacterial T6SS-associated genes functioning in competition against yeast. Our results suggest that the T6SS of P. syringae may play an important role in bacterial fitness, allowing this plant pathogen to survive in conditions where it has to compete with other micro-organisms for resources.
Via Nicolas Denancé