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Stress Tolerance and Environmental Fitness of Pseudomonas fluorescens A506, Which Has a Mutation in rpoS

June 2009 , Volume 99 , Number  6
Pages  679 - 688

Mary J. Hagen, Virginia O. Stockwell, Cheryl A. Whistler, Kenneth B. Johnson, and Joyce E. Loper

First, second, fourth, and fifth authors: Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, and third author: Cellular and Molecular Biology Program, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331; and fifth author: U.S. Department of Agriculture--Agricultural Research Service, Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, 3420 NW Orchard Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97330.

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Accepted for publication 20 January 2009.

Establishment of suppressive populations of bacterial biological control agents on aerial plant surfaces is a critical phase in biologically based management of floral diseases. Periodically, biocontrol agents encounter inhospitable conditions for growth on plants; consequently, tolerance of environmental stresses may contribute to their fitness. In many gram-negative bacteria, including strains of Pseudomonas spp., the capacity to survive environmental stresses is influenced by the stationary phase sigma factor RpoS. This study focused on the role of RpoS in stress response and epiphytic fitness of Pseudomonas fluorescens A506, a well-studied bacterial biological control agent. We detected a frameshift mutation in the rpoS of A506 and demonstrated that the mutation resulted in a truncated, nonfunctional RpoS. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we deleted a nucleotide from rpoS, which then encoded a full-length, functional RpoS. We compared the stress response and epiphytic fitness of A506 with derivative strains having the functional full-length RpoS or a disrupted, nonfunctional RpoS. RpoS had little effect on stress response of A506 and no consistent influence on epiphytic population size of A506 on pear or apple leaves or flowers. Although the capacity of strain A506 to withstand exposure to environmental stresses was similar to that of other fluorescent pseudomonads, this capacity was largely independent of rpoS.

Additional keywords:BlightBan, fire blight, fruit surfaces, phyllosphere.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2009