Leiden University, Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, Clusius Laboratory, Wassenaarseweg 64, 2333 AL Leiden, The Netherlands; Tel. (+31) 71 5275063; Fax. (+31) 71 5275088
In this work the bio-availability of amino acids for the root-colonizing Pseudomonas fluorescens strain WCS365 in the tomato rhizosphere was studied. The amino acid composition of axenically collected tomato root exudate was determined. The results show that aspartic acid, glutamic acid, isoleucine, leucine, and lysine are the major amino acid components. The concentrations of individual amino acids in the rhizosphere of gnotobiotically grown tomato plants were estimated and considered to be too low to support growth of rhizosphere micro-organisms to numbers usually found in the tomato rhizosphere. To test this experimentally, mutants of P. fluorescens WCS365 auxotrophic for the amino acids leucine, arginine, histidine, isoleucine plus valine, and tryptophan were isolated after mutagenesis with Tn5lacZ. Root tip colonization of these mutants was measured after inoculation of germinated tomato seeds and subsequent growth in a gnotobiotic quartz sand system (M. Simons, A. J. van der Bij, I. Brand, L. A. de Weger, C. A. Wijffelman, and B. J. J. Lugtenberg. 1996. Gnotobiotic system for studying rhizo-sphere colonization by plant growth-promoting Pseudomonas bacteria. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 9:600--607). In contrast to the wild-type strain, none of the five amino acid auxotrophs tested was able to colonize the tomato root tip, neither alone nor after co-inoculation with the wild-type strain. However, addition of the appropriate amino acid to the system restored colonization by the auxotrophic mutants, usually to wild-type levels. Analysis of the root base showed that cells of auxotrophic mutants were still present there. The results show that, although amino acids are present in root exudate, the bio-availability of the tested amino acids is too low to support root tip colonization by auxotrophic mutants of P. fluorescens strain WCS365. The genes that are required for amino acid synthesis are therefore necessary for root colonization. Moreover, these compounds apparently play no major role as nutrients in the tomato rhizosphere.