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Conserved Responses in a War of Small Molecules between a Plant-Pathogenic Bacterium and Fungi.


Small-molecule signaling is one major mode of communication within the polymicrobial consortium of soil and rhizosphere. While microbial secondary metabolite (SM) production and responses of individual species have been studied extensively, little is known about potentially conserved roles of SM signals in multilayered symbiotic or antagonistic relationships. Here, we characterize the SM-mediated interaction between the plant-pathogenic bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum and the two plant-pathogenic fungi Fusarium fujikuroi and Botrytis cinerea We show that cellular differentiation and SM biosynthesis in F. fujikuroi are induced by the bacterially produced lipopeptide ralsolamycin (synonym ralstonin A). In particular, fungal bikaverin production is induced and preferentially accumulates in fungal survival spores (chlamydospores) only when exposed to supernatants of ralsolamycin-producing strains of R. solanacearum Although inactivation of bikaverin biosynthesis moderately increases chlamydospore invasion by R. solanacearum, we show that other metabolites such as beauvericin are also induced by ralsolamycin and contribute to suppression of R. solanacearum growth in vitro Based on our findings that bikaverin antagonizes R. solanacearum and that ralsolamycin induces bikaverin biosynthesis in F. fujikuroi, we asked whether other bikaverin-producing fungi show similar responses to ralsolamycin. Examining a strain of B. cinerea that horizontally acquired the bikaverin gene cluster from Fusarium, we found that ralsolamycin induced bikaverin biosynthesis in this fungus. Our results suggest that conservation of microbial SM responses across distantly related fungi may arise from horizontal transfer of protective gene clusters that are activated by conserved regulatory cues, e.g., a bacterial lipopeptide, providing consistent fitness advantages in dynamic polymicrobial networks.IMPORTANCE Bacteria and fungi are ubiquitous neighbors in many environments, including the rhizosphere. Many of these organisms are notorious as economically devastating plant pathogens, but little is known about how they communicate chemically with each other. Here, we uncover a conserved antagonistic communication between the widespread bacterial wilt pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum and plant-pathogenic fungi from disparate genera, Fusarium and Botrytis Exposure of Fusarium fujikuroi to the bacterial lipopeptide ralsolamycin resulted in production of the antibacterial metabolite bikaverin specifically in fungal tissues invaded by Ralstonia Remarkably, ralsolamycin induction of bikaverin was conserved in a Botrytis cinerea isolate carrying a horizontally transferred bikaverin gene cluster. These results indicate that horizontally transferred gene clusters may carry regulatory prompts that contribute to conserved fitness functions in polymicrobial environments.

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