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Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jul;10(7):1725-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01594.x. Epub 2007 Apr 4.

Bacterial ectosymbionts and virulence silencing in a Fusarium oxysporum strain.

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Centre of Competence for the Innovation in the Agro-Environmental field, Agroinnova, University of Torino, via Leonardo da Vinci, 44, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy.


In the present article we have ascertained the presence of a consortium of ectosymbiotic bacteria belonging to Serratia, Achromobacter, Bacillus and Stenotrophomonas genera associated to the mycelium of the antagonistic Fusarium oxysporum MSA 35 [wild-type (WT) strain]. Morphological characterization carried out on the WT strain, on the F. oxysporum MSA 35 without ectosymbionts [cured (CU) strain] and on the pathogenic F. oxysporum f.sp. lactucae (Fuslat 10) showed that the ectosymbionts, present only in the WT strain, caused a depleted production of micro conidia and aerial hyphae, and a change in shape and dimension of the latter. Virulence tests showed that the cured Fusarium was a pathogenic strain and, as shown by polymerase chain reaction and microscope analysis, pathogenicity was correlated with the capability of the cured hyphae of penetrating lettuce roots. Accordingly, the hyphae of the WT strain were impaired in entering the plant roots. Typing experiments provided evidence that both CU and WT strains belong to F. oxysporum f.sp. lactucae. This implies that the antagonistic effect of WT Fusarium is not a fungal trait, but it is due to the interaction with the ectosymbiotic bacteria. Expression analysis showed that fmk1, chsV and pl1 genes involved in F. oxysporum pathogenicity are not expressed in the WT strain whereas they are expressed in the cured fungus. These results, together with the hyphal characteristics, suggest that the inability of WT strain to penetrate the plant roots could be due to alterations in the expression profile of cell wall-degrading enzymes. In conclusion, we demonstrated a modulation of F. oxysporum gene expression in response to the interaction with the ectosymbiotic bacteria. Preliminary researches indicated that the presence of bacteria attached to the hyphae of antagonistic F. oxysporum is not an isolated phenomenon. Further investigations are necessary to better understand the rule and the diffusion of ectosymbiotic bacteria among antagonistic Fusarium.

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