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Microb Ecol. 2005 Apr;49(3):343-52. Epub 2005 Jul 7.

Aggregates of resident bacteria facilitate survival of immigrant bacteria on leaf surfaces.

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  • 1Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


The fate of immigrant bacterial cells on leaves under stressful conditions was determined as a function of the anatomical features and the local spatial density of resident cells at their landing site. Pantoea agglomerans 299R was established on bean leaves and the survival of immigrant cells of Pseudomonas fluorescens A506 and Pseudomonas syringae B728a, as well as P. agglomerans itself, was determined by epifluorescence microscopy following subsequent exposure of plants to desiccation stress. Resident and immigrant bacterial strains constitutively expressed the cyan and the green fluorescent protein, respectively, and the viability of individual cells was assessed directly on leaf surfaces following propidium iodide staining. Although only a small fraction of the immigrant cells landed on established bacterial aggregates, their fate was usually strongly influenced by the presence of indigenous bacteria at the site at which they landed. Immigrants of P. agglomerans 299R or P. fluorescens A506 that arrived as solitary cells had about double the probability of survival when landing on aggregates formed by P. agglomerans 299R than when landing on uncolonized areas of the leaf surface. In contrast, the survival of P. syringae B728a was similar irrespective of whether it landed on colonized or uncolonized parts of a leaf. The nature of plant anatomical features at which immigrant bacteria landed also strongly influenced the fate of immigrant bacteria. The fraction of immigrant cells of each species tested that landed on veins, glandular trichomes, or epidermal cells altered by P. agglomerans that died was always less than when they landed on normal epidermal cells or at the base of hooked trichomes. Depending on the process by which immigrants arrive at a leaf, only a small fraction of cells may be deposited on existing bacterial aggregates. Although uncolonized sites differed greatly in their ability to influence the survival of immigrant cells, the fate of an immigrant bacterium will depend on the nature of the leaf structure on which it is deposited, and apparently indirectly on the amount of nutrients and water available at that site to support the development of bacterial aggregates.

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