Trehalose accumulation in Azospirillum brasilense improves drought tolerance and biomass in maize plants


  • Editor: Skorn Mongkolsuk

Correspondence: Gabriel Iturriaga, Centro de Investigación en Biotecnología-UAEM, Av. Universidad 1001, Col. Chamilpa, Cuernavaca 62209, Morelos, Mexico. Tel.: +52-777-329-7057; fax: +52-777-329-7030; e-mail:


Bacteria of the genus Azospirillum increase the grain yield of several grass crops. In this work the effect of inoculating maize plants with genetically engineered Azospirillum brasilense for trehalose biosynthesis was determined. Transformed bacteria with a plasmid harboring a trehalose biosynthesis gene-fusion from Saccharomyces cerevisiae were able to grow up to 0.5 M NaCl and to accumulate trehalose, whereas wild-type A. brasilense did not tolerate osmotic stress or accumulate significant levels of the disaccharide. Moreover, 85% of maize plants inoculated with transformed A. brasilense survived drought stress, in contrast with only 55% of plants inoculated with the wild-type strain. A 73% increase in biomass of maize plants inoculated with transformed A. brasilense compared with inoculation with the wild-type strain was found. In addition, there was a significant increase of leaf and root length in maize plants inoculated with transformed A. brasilense. Therefore, inoculation of maize plants with A. brasilense containing higher levels of trehalose confers drought tolerance and a significant increase in leaf and root biomass. This work opens the possibility that A. brasilense modified with a chimeric trehalose biosynthetic gene from yeast could increase the biomass, grain yield and stress tolerance in other relevant crops.