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Summary

Production of biosurfactants is a common feature in bacteria, and in particular in plant-associated species. These bacteria include many plant beneficial and plant pathogenic Pseudomonas spp., which produce primarily cyclic lipopeptide and rhamnolipid type biosurfactants. Pseudomonas-derived biosurfactants are involved in many important bacterial functions. By modifying surface properties, biosurfactants can influence common traits such as surface motility, biofilm formation and colonization. Biosurfactants can alter the bio-availability of exogenous compounds, such as nutrients, to promote their uptake, and of endogenous metabolites, including phenazine antibiotics, resulting in an enhanced biological activity. Antibiotic activity of biosurfactants towards microbes could play a role in intraspecific competition, self-defence and pathogenesis. In addition, bacterial surfactants can affect plants in different ways, either protecting them from disease, or acting as a toxin in a plant–pathogen interaction. Biosurfactants are involved in the biocontrol activity of an increasing number of Pseudomonas strains. Consequently, further insight into the roles and activities of surfactants produced by bacteria could provide means to optimize the use of biological control as an alternative crop protection strategy.