A Super-Absorbent Polymer Combination Promotes Bacterial Aggressiveness Uncoupled from the Epiphytic Population

  • Published : 2008.09.30


Plant leaf surface is an important niche for diverse epiphytic microbes, including bacteria and fungi. Plant leaf surface plays a critical frontline defense against pathogen infections. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a starch-based super-absorbent polymer(SAP) combination, which enhances water potential and nutrient availability to plant leaves. We evaluated the effect of SAP on the maintenance of bacterial populations. In order to monitor bacterial populations in situ, a SAP mixture containing Pseudomonas syringae pv. tabaci that expressed recombinant green fluorescent protein(GFPuv) was spray-challenged onto whole leaves of Nicotiana benthamiana. The SAP combination treatment enhanced bacterial robustness, as indicated by disease severity and incidence. Unexpectedly, bacterial numbers were not significantly different between leaves treated with the SAP combination and those treated with water alone. Furthermore, young leaves treated with the SAP combination had more severe symptoms and a greater number of bacterial spots caused by primary and secondary infections compared to young leaves treated with the water control. In contrast, bacterial cell numbers did not statistically differ between the two groups, which indicated that measurement of viable GFP-based bacterial spots may provide a more sensitive methodology for assessing virulence of bacterial pathogens than methods that require dilution plating following maceration of bacterial-inoculated leaf tissue. Our study suggests that the SAP combination successfully increased bacterial aggressiveness, which could either be used to promote the ability of biological agents to control weedy plants or increase the robustness of saprophytic epiphytes against competition from potentially harmful microbes.


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