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Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2008 Jun;94(1):11-9. doi: 10.1007/s10482-008-9241-3. Epub 2008 Apr 17.

Friends and foes: streptomycetes as modulators of plant disease and symbiosis.

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Institute of Botany, Physiological Ecology of Plants, University of Tuebingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 1, 72076 Tuebingen, Germany.


The ecological role of soil streptomycetes within the plant root environment is currently gaining increased attention. This review describes our recent advances in elucidating the complex interactions between streptomycetes, plants, pathogenic and symbiotic microorganisms. Streptomycetes play diverse roles in plant-associated microbial communities. Some act as biocontrol agents, inhibiting plant interactions with pathogenic organisms. Owing to the antagonistic properties of streptomycetes, they exert a selective pressure on soil microbes, which may not always be for plant benefit. Others promote the formation of symbioses between plant roots and microbes, and this is in part due to their direct positive influence on the symbiotic partner, expressed as, e.g., promotion of hyphal elongation of symbiotic fungi. Recently, streptomycetes have been identified as modulators of plant defence. By repressing plant responses to pathogens they facilitate root colonisation with pathogenic fungi. In contrast, other strains induce local and systemic resistance against pathogens or enhance plant growth. In conclusion, while streptomycetes have a clear potential of acting as biocontrol agents, care has to be taken to avoid strains that select for virulent pathogens or enhance disease development. We argue towards the use of an integrated screening approach in the search for efficient biocontrol agents, including assays on in vitro antagonism, plant growth, and disease suppression.

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