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Environ Microbiol. 1999 Oct;1(5):439-46.

Tomato seed and root exudate sugars: composition, utilization by Pseudomonas biocontrol strains and role in rhizosphere colonization.

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Leiden University, Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, Clusius Laboratory, The Netherlands.


The role of tomato seed and root exudate sugars as nutrients for Pseudomonas biocontrol bacteria was studied. To this end, the major exudate sugars of tomato seeds, seedlings and roots were identified and quantified using high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) analysis. Glucose, fructose and maltose were present in all studied growth stages of the plant, but the ratios of these sugars were strongly dependent on the developmental stage. In order to study the putative role of exudate sugar utilization in rhizosphere colonization, two approaches were adopted. First, after co-inoculation on germinated tomato seeds, the root-colonizing ability of the efficient root-colonizing P. fluorescens strain WCS365 in a gnotobiotic quartz sand-plant nutrient solution system was compared with that of other Pseudomonas biocontrol strains. No correlation was observed between the colonizing ability of a strain and its ability to use the major exudate sugars as the only carbon and energy source. Secondly, a Tn5lacZ mutant of P. fluorescens strain WCS365, strain PCL1083, was isolated, which is impaired in its ability to grow on simple sugars, including those found in exudate. The mutation appeared to reside in zwf, which encodes glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. The mutant grows as well as the parental strain on other media, including tomato root exudate. After inoculation of germinated sterile tomato seeds, the mutant cells reached the same population levels at the root tip as the wild-type strain, both alone and in competition, indicating that the ability to use exudate sugars does not play a major role in tomato root colonization, despite the fact that sugars have often been reported to represent the major exudate carbon source. This conclusion is supported by the observation that the growth of mutant PCL1083 in vitro is inhibited by glucose, a major exudate sugar, at a concentration of 0.001%, which indicates that the glucose concentration in the tomato rhizosphere is very low.

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