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J Food Prot. 2007 Feb;70(2):471-5.

Evidence for internalization of Escherichia coli into the aerial parts of maize via the root system.

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  • 1Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center, P.O. Box 6, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel.


Escherichia coli introduced into the hydroponic growing medium of maize plants was detected 48 h later in the shoot. Decapitation of root tips or severing of the plant root system at the root-shoot junction enhanced bacterial internalization. The density of the bacteria in shoots of plants with damaged roots or removed root systems was 27.8 and 23.9 times higher than that in plants with intact roots, respectively. The concentration of viable cells in the hydroponic solution decreased over time from 9.3 x 10(6) CFU/ml at the time of inoculation to 8.5 x 10(1) CFU/ml 4 days thereafter. The number of E. coli cells associated with the roots also decreased with time, but a significant decline appeared only at 4 days postinoculation. At the time of sampling for E. coli presence in the shoot, 10(2) CFU/ml was present in the nutrient solution and 8 x 10(3) CFU/g was associated with the roots. The present study is the first to demonstrate internalization of E. coli via the root in a monocotyledonous plant.

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