PLoS Comput Biol. 2023 Dec 27;19(12):e1011651. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1011651. Online ahead of print.
Bacterial pathogens adapt their metabolism to the plant environment to successfully colonize their hosts. In our efforts to uncover the metabolic pathways that contribute to the colonization of Arabidopsis thaliana leaves by Pseudomonas syringae pv tomato DC3000 (Pst DC3000), we created iPst19, an ensemble of 100 genome-scale network reconstructions of Pst DC3000 metabolism. We developed a novel approach for gene essentiality screens, leveraging the predictive power of iPst19 to identify core and ancillary condition-specific essential genes. Constraining the metabolic flux of iPst19 with Pst DC3000 gene expression data obtained from naïve-infected or pre-immunized-infected plants, revealed changes in bacterial metabolism imposed by plant immunity. Machine learning analysis revealed that among other amino acids, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) metabolism significantly contributed to the overall metabolic status of each gene-expression-contextualized iPst19 simulation. These predictions were tested and confirmed experimentally. Pst DC3000 growth and gene expression analysis showed that BCAAs suppress virulence gene expression in vitro without affecting bacterial growth. In planta, however, an excess of BCAAs suppress the expression of virulence genes at the early stages of infection and significantly impair the colonization of Arabidopsis leaves. Our findings suggesting that BCAAs catabolism is necessary to express virulence and colonize the host. Overall, this study provides valuable insights into how plant immunity impacts Pst DC3000 metabolism, and how bacterial metabolism impacts the expression of virulence.