, Volume 95, Issue 6, pp 1589-1603
Date: 28 Dec 2011

Plant exudates promote PCB degradation by a rhodococcal rhizobacteria

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Abstract

Rhodococcus erythropolis U23A is a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-degrading bacterium isolated from the rhizosphere of plants grown on a PCB-contaminated soil. Strain U23A bphA exhibited 99% identity with bphA1 of Rhodococcus globerulus P6. We grew Arabidopsis thaliana in a hydroponic axenic system, collected, and concentrated the plant secondary metabolite-containing root exudates. Strain U23A exhibited a chemotactic response toward these root exudates. In a root colonizing assay, the number of cells of strain U23A associated to the plant roots (5.7 × 105 CFU g−1) was greater than the number remaining in the surrounding sand (4.5 × 104 CFU g−1). Furthermore, the exudates could support the growth of strain U23A. In a resting cell suspension assay, cells grown in a minimal medium containing Arabidopsis root exudates as sole growth substrate were able to metabolize 2,3,4′- and 2,3′,4-trichlorobiphenyl. However, no significant degradation of any of congeners was observed for control cells grown on Luria–Bertani medium. Although strain U23A was unable to grow on any of the flavonoids identified in root exudates, biphenyl-induced cells metabolized flavanone, one of the major root exudate components. In addition, when used as co-substrate with sodium acetate, flavanone was as efficient as biphenyl to induce the biphenyl catabolic pathway of strain U23A. Together, these data provide supporting evidence that some rhodococci can live in soil in close association with plant roots and that root exudates can support their growth and trigger their PCB-degrading ability. This suggests that, like the flagellated Gram-negative bacteria, non-flagellated rhodococci may also play a key role in the degradation of persistent pollutants.