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Role of RpoS in Stress Tolerance and Environmental Fitness of the Phyllosphere Bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens Strain 122

June 2009 , Volume 99 , Number  6
Pages  689 - 695

Virginia O. Stockwell, Kevin Hockett, and Joyce E. Loper

First, second, and third authors: Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331; and third 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.

Bacteria living epiphytically on aerial plant surfaces encounter severe and rapidly fluctuating environmental conditions, and their capacity to withstand environmental stress contributes to epiphytic fitness. The stationary phase sigma factor RpoS is a key determinant in stress response of gram-negative bacteria, including Pseudomonas spp. This study focused on the role of RpoS in stress response and epiphytic fitness of Pseudomonas fluorescens strain 122 on aerial plant surfaces. RpoS had a significant role in the response of the phyllosphere bacterium P. fluorescens 122 to stresses imposed by desiccation, UV irradiation, starvation, and an oxidative environment. While significant, the difference in stress response between an rpoS mutant and the parental strain was less for strain 122 than for the rhizosphere bacterium P. fluorescens Pf-5. No consistent influence of RpoS on epiphytic population size of strain 122 on pear or apple flowers or leaves was observed in field trials. These data may indicate that P. fluorescens occupies protected microsites on aerial plant surfaces where the bacteria escape exposure to environmental stress, or that redundant stress-response mechanisms are operating in this bacterium, thereby obscuring the role of RpoS in epiphytic fitness of the bacterium.

Additional keywords:floral surfaces.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2009