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Exopolysaccharide Production Is Required for Biofilm Formation and Plant Colonization by the Nitrogen-Fixing Endophyte Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus

December 2011 , Volume 24 , Number  12
Pages  1,448 - 1,458

Carlos H. S. G. Meneses,1,2 Luc F. M. Rouws,2 Jean L. Simões-Araújo,2 Marcia S. Vidal,2 and José I. Baldani2

1Programa de Biotecnologia Vegetal, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Bloco K, 21941-590, Ilha do Fundão, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil; 2Laboratório de Genética e Bioquímica, Embrapa Agrobiologia, Rodovia BR 465, km 07, 23890-000, Seropédica, RJ, Brazil

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Accepted 24 July 2011.

The genome of the endophytic diazotrophic bacterial species Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus PAL5 (PAL5) revealed the presence of a gum gene cluster. In this study, the gumD gene homologue, which is predicted to be responsible for the first step in exopolysaccharide (EPS) production, was insertionally inactivated and the resultant mutant (MGD) was functionally studied. The mutant MGD presented normal growth and nitrogen (N2) fixation levels but did not produce EPS when grown on different carbon sources. MGD presented altered colony morphology on soft agar plates (0.3% agar) and was defective in biofilm formation on glass wool. Most interestingly, MGD was defective in rice root surface attachment and in root surface and endophytic colonization. Genetic complementation reverted all mutant phenotypes. Also, the addition of EPS purified from culture supernatants of the wild-type strain PAL5 to the mutant MGD was effective in partially restoring wild-type biofilm formation and plant colonization. These data provide strong evidence that the PAL5 gumD gene is involved in EPS biosynthesis and that EPS biosynthesis is required for biofilm formation and plant colonization. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a role of EPS in the endophytic colonization of graminaceous plants by a nitrogen-fixing bacterium.

© 2011 The American Phytopathological Society