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Microbiology. 1995 May;141 ( Pt 5):1109-15.

Manipulation of intracellular glycerol and erythritol enhances germination of conidia at low water availability.

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Biotechnology Centre, Cranfield University, Bedford, UK.


The insect pathogens Beauveria bassiana, Metarhizium anisopliae and Paecilomyces farinosus can be effective biocontrol agents when relative humidity (RH) is close to 100%. At reduced water availability, germination of propagules, and therefore host infection, cannot occur. Cultures of B. bassiana, M. anisopliae and P. farinosus were grown under different conditions to obtain conidia with a modified polyol and trehalose content. Conidia with higher intracellular concentrations of glycerol and erythritol germinated both more quickly and at lower water activity (aw) than those from other treatments. In contrast, conidia containing up to 235.7 mg trehalose g-1 germinated significantly (P < 0.05) more slowly than those with an equivalent polyol content but less trehalose, regardless of water availability. Conidia from control treatments did not germinate below 0.951-0.935 aw (identical to 95.1-93.5% RH). In contrast, conidia containing up to 164.6 mg glycerol plus erythritol g-1 germinated down to 0.887 aw (identical to 88.7% RH). These conidia germinated below the water availability at which mycelial growth ceases (0.930-0.920 aw). Germ tube extension rates reflected the percentage germination of conidia, so the most rapid germ tube growth occurred after treatments which produced conidia containing the most glycerol and erythritol. This study shows for the first time that manipulating polyol content can extend the range of water availability over which fungal propagules can germinate. Physiological manipulation of conidia may improve biological control of insect pests in the field.

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