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Phenotypic Variation of Pseudomonas brassicacearum as a Plant Root-Colonization Strategy

August 2004 , Volume 17 , Number  8
Pages  872 - 879

Wafa Achouak , Sandrine Conrod , Valérie Cohen , and Thierry Heulin

Laboratoire d'écologie Microbienne de la Rhizosphère (LEMiR), UMR 6191 CNRS-CEA-Université Aix-Marseille II, DEVM-DSV, IFR 112 PMSE, CEA Cadarache, F-13108 Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France

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Accepted 29 March 2004.

Pseudomonas brassicacearum was isolated as a major root-colonizing population from Arabidopsis thaliana. The strain NFM421 of P. brassicacearum undergoes phenotypic variation during A. thaliana and Brassica napus root colonization in vitro as well as in soil, resulting in different colony appearance on agar surfaces. Bacteria forming translucent colonies (phase II cells) essentially were localized at the surface of young roots and root tips, whereas wild-type cells (phase I cells) were localized at the basal part of roots. The ability of phase II cells to spread and colonize new sites on root surface correlates with over-production of flagellin as evidenced by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis of surface proteins and microsequencing. Moreover, phase II cells showed a higher ability to swim and to swarm on semisolid agar medium. Phase I and phase II cells of P. brassicacearum NFM421 were tagged genetically with green fluorescent protein and red fluorescent protein. Confocal scanning laser microscopy was used to localize phase II cells on secondary roots and root tips of A. thaliana, whereas phase I cells essentially were localized at the basal part of roots. These experiments were conducted in vitro and in soil. Phenotypic variation on plant roots is likely to be a colonization strategy that may explain the high colonization power of P. brassicacearum.

Additional keywords: co-localization, rhizosphere.

© 2004 The American Phytopathological Society