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Specific Responses of Salmonella enterica to Tomato Varieties and Fruit Ripeness Identified by In Vivo Expression Technology

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license


Recent outbreaks of vegetable-associated gastroenteritis suggest that enteric pathogens colonize, multiply and persist in plants for extended periods of time, eventually infecting people. Genetic and physiological pathways, by which enterics colonize plants, are still poorly understood.

Methodology/Principal Findings

To better understand interactions between Salmonella enterica sv. Typhimurium and tomatoes, a gfp-tagged Salmonella promoter library was screened inside red ripe fruits. Fifty-one unique constructs that were potentially differentially regulated in tomato relative to in vitro growth were identified. The expression of a subset of these promoters was tested in planta using recombinase-based in vivo expression technology (RIVET) and fitness of the corresponding mutants was tested. Gene expression in Salmonella was affected by fruit maturity and tomato cultivar. A putative fadH promoter was upregulated most strongly in immature tomatoes. Expression of the fadH construct depended on the presence of linoleic acid, which is consistent with the reduced accumulation of this compound in mature tomato fruits. The cysB construct was activated in the fruit of cv. Hawaii 7997 (resistant to a race of Ralstonia solanacearum) more strongly than in the universally susceptible tomato cv. Bonny Best. Known Salmonella motility and animal virulence genes (hilA, flhDC, fliF and those encoded on the pSLT virulence plasmid) did not contribute significantly to fitness of the bacteria inside tomatoes, even though deletions of sirA and motA modestly increased fitness of Salmonella inside tomatoes.


This study reveals the genetic basis of the interactions of Salmonella with plant hosts. Salmonella relies on a distinct set of metabolic and regulatory genes, which are differentially regulated in planta in response to host genotype and fruit maturity. This enteric pathogen colonizes tissues of tomatoes differently than plant pathogens, and relies little on its animal virulence genes for persistence within the fruit.

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