Glycine Betaine Catabolism Contributes to Pseudomonas syringae Tolerance to Hyperosmotic Stress by Relieving Betaine-Mediated Suppression of Compatible Solute Synthesis

Shanshan Li, Iowa State University
Xilan Yu, Iowa State University
Gwyn A. Beattie, Iowa State University

This article is from Journal of Bacteriology 195 (2013): 2415, doi: 10.1128/JB.00094-13. Posted with permission.


Many bacteria can accumulate glycine betaine for osmoprotection and catabolize it as a growth substrate, but how they regulate these opposing roles is poorly understood. In Pseudomonas syringae B728a, expression of the betaine catabolism genes was reduced by an osmotic upshift to an intermediate stress level, consistent with betaine accumulation, but was increased by an upshift to a high stress level, as confirmed by an accompanying increase in degradation of radiolabeled betaine. Deletion of the gbcAB betaine catabolism genes reduced osmotolerance at a high osmolarity, and this reduction was due to the relief of betaine-mediated suppression of compatible solute synthesis. This conclusion was supported by the findings that, at high osmolarity, the ΔgbcAB mutant accumulated high betaine levels and low endogenous solutes and exhibited reduced expression of the solute synthesis genes. Moreover, the ΔgbcAB mutant and a mutant deficient in the synthesis of the compatible solutes NAGGN and trehalose exhibited similar reductions in osmotolerance and also in fitness on bean leaves. Activation of betaine catabolism at high osmotic stress resulted, in part, from induction of gbdR, which encodes the transcriptional activator GbdR. Betaine catabolism was subject to partial repression by succinate under hyperosmotic stress conditions, in contrast to strong repression in the absence of stress, suggesting that betaine functions both in nutrition and as an intracellular signal modulating solute synthesis under hyperosmotic stress conditions. Collectively, these results begin to provide a detailed mechanistic understanding of how P. syringae transitions from reliance on exogenously derived betaine to the use of endogenous solutes during adaptation to hyperosmotic conditions.