Biocontrol of tomato wilt disease by Bacillus subtilis isolates from natural environments depends on conserved genes mediating biofilm formation

Authors

  • Yun Chen,

    1. Department of Plant Pathology, College of Plant Protection, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China
    2. Engineering Center of Bioresource Pesticide in Jiangsu Province, Nanjing, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Crop Diseases and Pests (Nanjing Agricultural University), Ministry of Education, Nanjing, China
    4. Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Fang Yan,

    1. Department of Plant Pathology, College of Plant Protection, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China
    2. Engineering Center of Bioresource Pesticide in Jiangsu Province, Nanjing, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Crop Diseases and Pests (Nanjing Agricultural University), Ministry of Education, Nanjing, China
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Yunrong Chai,

    1. Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Hongxia Liu,

    1. Department of Plant Pathology, College of Plant Protection, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China
    2. Engineering Center of Bioresource Pesticide in Jiangsu Province, Nanjing, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Crop Diseases and Pests (Nanjing Agricultural University), Ministry of Education, Nanjing, China
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  • Roberto Kolter,

    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Richard Losick,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
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  • Jian-hua Guo

    Corresponding author
    1. Engineering Center of Bioresource Pesticide in Jiangsu Province, Nanjing, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Crop Diseases and Pests (Nanjing Agricultural University), Ministry of Education, Nanjing, China
    • Department of Plant Pathology, College of Plant Protection, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China
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For correspondence. E-mail jhguo@njau.edu.cn; E-mail losick@mcb.harvard.edu.

Summary

Bacillus subtilis and other Bacilli have long been used as biological control agents against plant bacterial diseases but the mechanisms by which the bacteria confer protection are not well understood. Our goal in this study was to isolate strains of B. subtilis that exhibit high levels of biocontrol efficacy from natural environments and to investigate the mechanisms by which these strains confer plant protection. We screened a total of 60 isolates collected from various locations across China and obtained six strains that exhibited above 50% biocontrol efficacy on tomato plants against the plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum under greenhouse conditions. These wild strains were able to form robust biofilms both in defined medium and on tomato plant roots and exhibited strong antagonistic activities against various plant pathogens in plate assays. We show that plant protection by those strains depended on widely conserved genes required for biofilm formation, including regulatory genes and genes for matrix production. We provide evidence suggesting that matrix production is critical for bacterial colonization on plant root surfaces. Finally, we have established a model system for studies of B. subtilis–tomato plant interactions in protection against a plant pathogen.

Ancillary