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Nitrilase enzymes catalyse the hydrolysis of nitrile compounds to the corresponding carboxylic acid and ammonia, and have been identified in plants, bacteria and fungi. There is mounting evidence to support a role for nitrilases in plant-microbe interactions, but the activity of these enzymes in plant pathogenic bacteria remains unexplored. The genomes of the plant pathogenic bacteria Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae B728a and Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 contain nitrilase genes with high similarity to characterized bacterial arylacetonitrilases. In this study, we show that the nitrilase of P. syringae pv. syringae B728a is an arylacetonitrilase, which is capable of hydrolysing indole-3-acetonitrile to the plant hormone indole-3-acetic acid, and allows P. syringae pv. syringae B728a to use indole-3-acetonitrile as a nitrogen source. This enzyme may represent an additional mechanism for indole-3-acetic acid biosynthesis by P. syringae pv. syringae B728a, or may be used to degrade and assimilate aldoximes and nitriles produced during plant secondary metabolism. Nitrilase activity was not detected in P. syringae pv. tomato DC3000, despite the presence of a homologous nitrilase gene. This raises the interesting question of why nitrilase activity has been retained in P. syringae pv. syringae B728a and not in P. syringae pv. tomato DC3000.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Plant Pathol

Publication Date





857 - 865


Aminohydrolases, Indoleacetic Acids, Indoles, Phylogeny, Pseudomonas syringae