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Deleterious Impact of a Virulent Bacteriophage on Survival and Biocontrol Activity of Pseudomonas fluorescens Strain CHA0 in Natural Soil

June 2002 , Volume 15 , Number  6
Pages  567 - 576

Christoph Keel , 1 Zöhre Ucurum , 1 Patrick Michaux , 1 Marc Adrian , 2 and Dieter Haas 1

1Laboratoire de Biologie Microbienne and 2Laboratoire d'Analyse Ultrastructurale, Université de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

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Accepted 6 February 2002.

Many biotic and abiotic factors affect the persistence and activity of beneficial pseudomonads introduced into soil to suppress plant diseases. One such factor may be the presence of virulent bacteriophages that decimate the population of the introduced bacteria, thereby reducing their beneficial effect. We have isolated a lytic bacteriophage (ΦGP100) that specifically infects the biocontrol bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens CHA0 and some closely related Pseudomonas strains. ΦGP100 was found to be a doublestranded-DNA phage with an icosahedral head, a stubby tail, and a genome size of approximately 50 kb. Replication of ΦGP100 was negatively affected at temperatures higher than 25°C. ΦGP100 had a negative impact on the population size and the biocontrol activity of P. fluorescens strain CHA0-Rif (a rifampicin-resistant variant of CHA0) in natural soil microcosms. In the presence of ΦGP100, the population size of strain CHA0-Rif in soil and on cucumber roots was reduced more than 100-fold. As a consequence, the bacterium's capacity to protect cucumber against a root disease caused by the pathogenic oomycete Pythium ultimum was entirely abolished. In contrast, the phage affected neither root colonization and nor the disease suppressive effect of a ΦGP100-resistant variant of strain CHA0-Rif. To our knowledge, this study is the first to illustrate the potential of phages to impair biocontrol performance of beneficial bacteria released into the natural soil environment.

Additional keywords: antifungal , Podoviridae , rhizosphere , root rot , soilborne pathogens .

© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society