Ecology and characterization of polyhydroxyalkanoate-producing microorganisms on and in plants

Ilona Gasser, Henry Müller, Gabriele Berg

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Polyhydroxyalkanoates are energy reserve polymers produced by bacteria to survive periods of starvation in natural habitats. Little is known about the ecology of polyhydroxyalkanoate producing bacteria. To analyse the occurrence of this specific group on/in seven different plant species, a combined strategy containing culture-dependent and -independent methods was applied. Using microbial fingerprint techniques (single strand conformation polymorphism analysis with specific primers for phaC gene encoding the key enzyme of the polyhydroxyalkanoate synthesis), a high number of bands were especially found for the rhizosphere. Furthermore, cluster analysis revealed plant species specific communities. Isolation of bacteria, recognition of brightly refractile cytoplasmatic inclusions, lipophilic stainings and a PCR strategy targeted on the phaC gene were used as a culture dependent strategy for the detection of polyhydroxyalkanoate producing bacteria. Results again represent a high degree of plant specificity: the rhizosphere of sugar beet contained the highest number of positive strains. This was confirmed by quantitative PCR: the relative copy number of phaC was statistically and significantly enhanced in all rhizospheres in comparison with bulk soil. New polyhydroxyalkanoate producing bacterial species were detected: for example, Burkholderia terricola, Lysobacter gummosus, Pseudomonas extremaustralis, Pseudomonas brassicacearum and Pseudomonas orientalis. Our results confirm the hypothesis that the rhizosphere is an interesting hidden reservoir for polyhydroxyalkanoate producers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-150
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number70
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2009

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