, Volume 176, Issue 3, pp 333–342

An alternative explanation for plant growth promotion by bacteria of the genus Azospirillum

  • W. Zimmer
  • K. Roeben
  • H. Bothe

DOI: 10.1007/BF00395413

Cite this article as:
Zimmer, W., Roeben, K. & Bothe, H. Planta (1988) 176: 333. doi:10.1007/BF00395413


Experiments were performed to identify the substances that are excreted by the soil bacterium Azospirillum brasilense Sp7 and that were reported to stimulate the formation of lateral roots and of root hairs of grasses. Azospirillum forms indole-3 acetic acid (IAA) but only in the late stationary growth phase or when tryptophan is present in the medium, but not in continuous cultures or in the logarithmic growth phase of batch cultures. Formation of IAA by Azospirillum requires aerobic conditions. Nitrite can replace IAA in several phytohormone assay, and is even more active than IAA in a test with wheat root segments in which the increase of wet weight is determined. Higher amounts of nitrite are necessary for activity in other classical auxin assays. Nitrite shows 40–60% of the activity of IAA in the straight-growth test of Avena coleoptiles and in the formation of C2H4 by pea epicotyl segments. Like IAA, nitrite is inactive in promoting C2H4 formation by ripe apple tissues. Since nitrite alone can hardly exert phytohormonal effects, it is postulated that nitrite reacts with a substance in the cells and that a product formed by this reaction functions as auxin. Such a substance could be ascorbate. Exogenously added ascorbate enhances the rate of nitrite-dependent C2H4 formation by pea epicotyl sections and the nitrite-dependent increase in the wet weight of wheat root segments. Nitrite is formed by nitrate respiration of Azospirillum. The findings that nitrite can have phytohormonal effects offers an alternative explanation of the promotion of the growth of roots and the enhancement of mineral uptake of grasses by Azospirillum. Indole-acetic acid completely and nitrite partly substitute for an inoculation with Azospirillum in an assay where the increase of the dry weight of intact wheat roots is determined after an incubation for 10 d. Nitrite and IAA are, therefore, possibly the only factors causing an enhancement of the growth of roots of grasses.

Key words

Azospirillum Plant growth promoter Indoleacetic acid Nitrate respiration Nitrite (phytohormonal effect) 



high-performance liquid chromatography


indole-3-acetic acid

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Zimmer
    • 1
  • K. Roeben
    • 1
  • H. Bothe
    • 1
  1. 1.Botanisches Institut der Universität KölnKöln 41Federal Republic of Germany

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