Desiccation responses and survival of Sinorhizobium meliloti USDA 1021 in relation to growth phase, temperature, chloride and sulfate availability


J.A.C. Vriezen, Department of Microbiology, N206 Morrill Science Center IV, 639 North Pleasant Street, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-9298, USA. E-mail:


Aims:  To identify physical and physiological conditions that affect the survival of Sinorhizobium meliloti USDA 1021 during desiccation.

Methods and Results:  An assay was developed to study desiccation response of S. meliloti USDA 1021 over a range of environmental conditions. We determined the survival during desiccation in relation to (i) matrices and media, (ii) growth phase, (iii) temperature, and (iv) chloride and sulfate availability.

Conclusions:  This study indicates that survival of S. meliloti USDA 1021 during desiccation is enhanced: (i) when cells were dried in the stationary phase, (ii) with increasing drying temperature at an optimum of 37°C, and (iii) during an increase of chloride and sulfate, but not sodium or potassium availability. In addition, we resolved that the best matrix to test survival was nitrocellulose filters.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  The identification of physical and physiological factors that determine the survival during desiccation of S. meliloti USDA 1021 may aid in (i) the strategic development of improved seed inocula, (ii) the isolation, and (iii) the development of rhizobial strains with improved ability to survive desiccation. Furthermore, this work may provide insights into the survival of rhizobia under drought conditions.