Departamento de Microbiología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Málaga, Instituto de Hortofruticultura Subtropical y Mediterránea “La Mayora” (IHSM-UMA-CSIC), Bulevar Louis Pasteur-Campus Universitario de Teatinos s/n, 29071 Málaga, Spain
The antibacterial potential of four strains of Bacillus subtilis, UMAF6614, UMAF6619, UMAF6639, and UMAF8561, previously selected on the basis of their antifungal activity and efficacy against cucurbit powdery mildew, was examined. Among these strains, UMAF6614 and UMAF6639 showed the highest antibacterial activity in vitro, especially against Xanthomonas campestris pv. cucurbitae and Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. carotovorum. These strains produced the three families of lipopeptide antibiotics known in Bacillus spp.: surfactins, iturins, and fengycins. Using thin-layer chromatography analysis and direct bioautography, the antibacterial activity could be associated with iturin lipopeptides. This result was confirmed by mutagenesis analysis using lipopeptide-defective mutants. The antibacterial activity was practically abolished in iturin-deficient mutants, whereas the fengycin mutants retained certain inhibitory capabilities. Analyses by fluorescence and transmission electron microscopy revealed the cytotoxic effect of these compounds at the bacterial plasma membrane level. Finally, biological control assays on detached melon leaves demonstrated the ability of UMAF6614 and UMAF6639 to suppress bacterial leaf spot and soft rot; accordingly, the biocontrol activity was practically abolished in mutants deficient in iturin biosynthesis. Taken together, our results highlight the potential of these B. subtilis strains as biocontrol agents against fungal and bacterial diseases of cucurbits and the versatility of iturins as antifungal and antibacterial compounds.