The aim of this study was to determine the impact of wild-type along with functionally and nonfunctionally modified Pseudomonas fluorescens strains in the rhizosphere. The wild-type F113 strain carried a gene encoding the production of the antibiotic 2,4-diacetylphloroglucinol (DAPG) useful in plant disease control, and was marked with a lacZY gene cassette. The first modified strain was a functional modification of strain F113 with repressed production of DAPG, creating the DAPG-negative strain F113 G22. The second paired comparison was a nonfunctional modification of wild-type (unmarked) strain SBW25, constructed to carry marker genes only, creating strain SBW25 EeZY-6KX. Significant perturbations were found in the indigenous bacterial population structure, with the F113 (DAPG+) strain causing a shift towards slower growing colonies (K strategists) compared with the nonantibiotic-producing derivative (F113 G22) and the SBW25 strains. The DAPG+ strain also significantly reduced, in comparison with the other inocula, the total Pseudomonas populations but did not affect the total microbial populations. The survival of F113 and F113 G22 were an order of magnitude lower than the SBW 25 strains. The DAPG+ strain caused a significant decrease in the shoot-to-root ratio in comparison to the control and other inoculants, indicating plant stress. F113 increased soil alkaline phosphatase, phosphodiesterase and aryl sulphatase activities compared to the other inocula, which themselves reduced the same enzyme activities compared to the control. In contrast to this, the β-glucosidase, β-galactosidase and N-acetyl glucosaminidase activities decreased with the inoculation of the DAPG+ strain. These results indicate that soil enzymes are sensitive to the impact of inoculation with genetically modified microorganisms (GMMs).
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