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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2009 Oct;70(1):132-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2009.00746.x. Epub 2009 Jul 21.

Growth of Frankia strains in leaf litter-amended soil and the rhizosphere of a nonactinorhizal plant.

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Department of Biology, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA.


The ability of Frankia strains to grow in the rhizosphere of a nonactinorhizal plant, Betula pendula, in surrounding bulk soil and in soil amended with leaf litter was analyzed 6 weeks after inoculation of pure cultures by in situ hybridization. Growth responses were related to taxonomic position as determined by comparative sequence analysis of nifH gene fragments and of an actinomycetes-specific insertion in Domain III of the 23S rRNA gene. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed the basic classification of Frankia strains by host infection groups, and allowed a further differentiation of Frankia clusters within the Alnus host infection group. Except for Casuarina-infective Frankia strains, all other strains of the Alnus and the Elaeagnus host infection groups displayed growth in the rhizosphere of B. pendula, and none of them grew in the surrounding bulk soil that was characterized by a very low organic matter content. Only a small number of strains that all belonged to a distinct phylogenetic cluster within the Alnus host infection group grew in soil amended with ground leaf litter from B. pendula. These results demonstrate that saprotrophic growth of frankiae is a common trait for most members of the genus, and the supporting factors for growth (i.e. carbon utilization capabilities) varied with the host infection group and the phylogenetic affiliation of the strains.

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