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J Bacteriol. Apr 1994; 176(7): 1913–1923.
PMCID: PMC205294

Root colonization and systemic spreading of Azoarcus sp. strain BH72 in grasses.

Abstract

The invasive properties of Azoarcus sp. strain BH72, an endorhizospheric isolate of Kallar grass, on gnotobiotically grown seedlings of Oryza sativa IR36 and Leptochloa fusca (L.) Kunth were studied. Additionally, Azoarcus spp. were localized in roots of field-grown Kallar grass. To facilitate localization and to assure identity of bacteria, genetically engineered microorganisms expressing beta-glucuronidase were also used as inocula. beta-Glucuronidase staining indicated that the apical region of the root behind the meristem was the most intensively colonized. Light and electron microscopy showed that strain BH72 penetrated the rhizoplane preferentially in the zones of elongation and differentiation and colonized the root interior inter- and intracellularly. In addition to the root cortex, stelar tissue was also colonized; bacteria were found in the xylem. No evidence was obtained that Azoarcus spp. could reside in living plant cells; rather, plant cells were apparently destroyed after bacteria had penetrated the cell wall. A common pathogenicity test on tobacco leaves provided no evidence that representative strains of Azoarcus spp. are phytopathogenic. Compared with the control, inoculation with strain BH72 significantly promoted growth of rice seedlings. This effect was reversed when the plant medium was supplemented with malate (0.2 g/liter). N2 fixation was apparently not involved, because the same response was obtained with a nifK mutant of strain BH72, which has a Nif- phenotype. Also, Western blot (immunoblot) analysis of protein extracts from rice seedlings gave no indication that nitrogenase was present. PCR and Western immunoblotting, using primers specific for eubacteria and antibodies recognizing type-specific antigens, respectively, indicated that strain BH72 could colonize rice plants systemically, probably mediated by longitudinal spreading through vessels.

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