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Microb Ecol. 2005 Feb;49(2):272-81. Epub 2005 Jun 17.

Using phospholipid fatty acid technique to study short-term effects of the biological control agent Pseudomonas fluorescens DR54 on the microbial microbiota in barley rhizosphere.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology, National Environmental Research Institute, Frederiksborgvej 399, DK-4000, Roskilde, Denmark.


The biological control agent (BCA) Pseudomonas fluorescens DR54 was applied to seeds (experiment 1) or roots (experiment 2) of barley growing in microcosms, while noninoculated plants served as controls. The fate of the BCA and its effects on the rhizosphere microbial community was evaluated in microcosms destructively sampled at days 2, 4, 6, and 9 after inoculation. In both experiments the number of P. fluorescens DR54 cells decreased immediately after application as enumerated by immunostaining and microscope direct counting. Substrate-induced respiration (SIR) was taken as a measurement of the active microbial biomass, while indicators of the total microbiota (and main taxonomic groups) were obtained using the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) technique. In experiment 1, these parameters were unaffected by the relatively small number of BCA cells applied, whereas in experiment 2, the larger BCA input resulted in an enhanced level of both SIR and PLFAs from Gram-negative bacteria (which included the BCA itself). However, at day 9 after inoculation, treatments with P. fluorescens DR54 and controls were similar in all measured parameters in both experiments. This was also illustrated very clearly by principal component analysis of the PLFA data, which in both experiments were able to discriminate between treatments in the first days after BCA inoculation, thus confirming the sensitivity of this method. Laccase activity has a potential as an indicator of fungal stress, e.g., when challenged with an antifungal BCA. This seemed to be supported in experiment 2, where the activity of this enzyme was enhanced four-fold in the BCA treatment at day 2. Our study shows that under the present conditions, P. fluorescens DR54 disappears from the soil and causes only transient effects on the soil microbiota. It also shows that the PLFA technique is a sensitive and reliable monitoring tool in in situ assessment of BCA nontarget effect on indigenous microorganisms in soil.

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