The pathogen Agrobacterium
induces gall formation on a wide range of dicotyledonous plants. In this bacteria, most pathogenicity determinants are borne on the tumour inducing (Ti) plasmid. The conjugative transfer of this plasmid between agrobacteria is regulated by quorum sensing (QS). However, processes involved in the disturbance of QS also occur in this bacteria under the molecular form of a protein, TraM, inhibiting the sensing of the QS signals, and two lactonases BlcC (AttM) and AiiB that degrade the acylhomoserine lactone (AHL) QS signal. In the model Agrobacterium fabrum
strain C58, several data, once integrated, strongly suggest that the QS regulation may not be reacting only to cell concentration. Rather, these QS elements in association with the quorum quenching (QQ) activities may constitute an integrated and complex “go/no go system” that finely controls the biologically costly transfer of the Ti plasmid in response to multiple environmental cues. This decision mechanism permits the bacteria to sense whether it is in a gall or not, in a living or decaying tumor, in stressed plant tissues, etc. In this scheme, the role of the lactonases selected and maintained in the course of Ti plasmid and agrobacterial evolution appears to be pivotal.
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