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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 May;72(5):3429-34.

Rhizosphere selection of highly motile phenotypic variants of Pseudomonas fluorescens with enhanced competitive colonization ability.

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  • 1Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, c/Darwin 2, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


Phenotypic variants of Pseudomonas fluorescens F113 showing a translucent and diffuse colony morphology show enhanced colonization of the alfalfa rhizosphere. We have previously shown that in the biocontrol agent P. fluorescens F113, phenotypic variation is mediated by the activity of two site-specific recombinases, Sss and XerD. By overexpressing the genes encoding either of the recombinases, we have now generated a large number of variants (mutants) after selection either by prolonged laboratory cultivation or by rhizosphere passage. All the isolated variants were more motile than the wild-type strain and appear to contain mutations in the gacA and/or gacS gene. By disrupting these genes and complementation analysis, we have observed that the Gac system regulates swimming motility by a repression pathway. Variants isolated after selection by prolonged cultivation formed a single population with a swimming motility that was equal to the motility of gac mutants, being 150% more motile than the wild type. The motility phenotype of these variants was complemented by the cloned gac genes. Variants isolated after rhizosphere selection belonged to two different populations: one identical to the population isolated after prolonged cultivation and the other comprising variants that besides a gac mutation harbored additional mutations conferring higher motility. Our results show that gac mutations are selected both in the stationary phase and during rhizosphere colonization. The enhanced motility phenotype is in turn selected during rhizosphere colonization. Several of these highly motile variants were more competitive than the wild-type strain, displacing it from the root tip within 2 weeks.

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