APS Homepage

TECHNICAL SESSION: Enhancing the biological control of bacterial plant diseases

Stronger together: Coculture screen for specialized metabolites in the rhizosphere
Noam Eckshtain-Levi - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Elizabeth Shank- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

To address food security, agricultural yields must increase to match the growing human population partially by keeping plant disease at bay. Currently, there is a strong push to develop more sustainable agricultural practices, one of which is using ‘biological control’ rather than chemical pesticides. In plant pathology, this term applies to the use of microbial antagonists to suppress diseases; organisms that suppress pathogens are referred to as biological control agents (BCAs). Many groups have attempted to identify single strains that can act as BCAs, but bacteria often live as members of complex microbial communities where an important component of their local environment is other microbial cells. In order to communicate with these neighboring microbes, many bacteria secrete specialized (or secondary) metabolites. Most of the biosynthetic gene clusters that produce specialized metabolites are inactive during normal laboratory growth, and thus are hidden from discovery during traditional screens. However, coculture has been shown in numerous cases to elicit production of otherwise cryptic metabolites. Our long?term goal is to identify functional microbial consortia and novel bioactive compounds to rationally manipulate microbial communities and improve the environment. Therefore, we are using coculture screening coupled with MALDI-TOF to stimulate the production of these hidden metabolites and screen for their potential activity against plant pathogens.