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Mutation of a degS Homologue in Enterobacter cloacae Decreases Colonization and Biological Control of Damping-Off on Cucumber

February 2011 , Volume 101 , Number  2
Pages  271 - 280

Daniel P. Roberts, Scott M. Lohrke, Laurie McKenna, Dilip K. Lakshman, Hyesuk Kong, and John Lydon

First, second, third, fifth, and sixth authors: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, and fourth author: Florist and Nursery Plants Research Unit, United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350.

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Accepted for publication 2 October 2010.

We have been using mutagenesis to determine how biocontrol bacteria such as Enterobacter cloacae 501R3 deal with complex nutritional environments found in association with plants. E. cloacae C10, a mutant of 501R3 with a transposon insertion in degS, was diminished in growth on synthetic cucumber root exudate (SRE), colonization of cucumber seed and roots, and control of damping-off of cucumber caused by Pythium ultimum. DegS, a periplasmic serine protease in the closely related bacterium Escherichia coli K12, is required for the RpoE-mediated stress response. C10 containing wild-type degS from 501R3 or from E. coli K12 on pBeloBAC11 was significantly increased in growth on SRE, colonization of cucumber roots, and control of P. ultimum relative to C10 containing pBeloBAC11 alone. C10 and 501R3 were similar in sensitivity to acidic conditions, plant-derived phenolic compounds, oxidative stress caused by hydrogen peroxide, dessication, and high osmoticum; stress conditions potentially associated with plants. This study demonstrates a role for degS in the spermosphere and rhizosphere during colonization and disease control by Enterobacter cloacae. This study implicates, for the first time, the involvement of DegS and, by extension, the RpoE-mediated stress response, in reducing stress on E. cloacae resulting from the complex nutritional environments in the spermosphere and rhizosphere.

Additional keywords: environmental stress, extracytoplasmic stress.

This article is in the public domain and not copyrightable. It may be freely reprinted with customary crediting of the source. The American Phytopathological Society, 2011.