Bacteria in Agrobiology: Plant Growth Responses

pp 21-39


Bacillus mojavensis: Its Endophytic Nature, the Surfactins, and Their Role in the Plant Response to Infection by Fusarium verticillioides

  • Charles W. BaconAffiliated withUSDA, ARS, Russell Research Center Email author 
  • , Dorothy M. HintonAffiliated withUSDA, ARS, Russell Research Center

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Bacterial endophytes are fundamentally important as natural components of most plants, wild and cultivated with strong ecological merits. These ancient associations are recently at the forefront of biological control strategies designed to circumvent the problems associated with pesticide uses, particularly on specific food crops. Bacterial endophytes form compatible associations that persist during the growing seasons, where several enhanced benefits are associated, suggesting that such associations are mutualistic. Several genera of bacteria are known as root associations, and only recently are species being identified as plant endophytes, occupying the entire plant axis in most cases. Bacillus mojavensis was discovered in maize kernels and later determined to be an endophyte with biocontrol potential due to its inhibition of the maize mycotoxic and pathogenic fungus Fusarium verticillioides, itself an endophyte. It was subsequently shown that this strain and others were inhibitory to most fungi, especially plant pathogenic species. Further, maize plants infected with B. mojavensis showed a marked improvement in foliage and root growth and development, disease protection, and mycotoxin reduction. Components of B. mojavensis-infected maize are reviewed relative to biocontrol of F. verticillioides and other endophytic fungi. The patented and other strains of this bacterium were recently reported as producers of the lipopeptide biosurfactant Leu7-surfactin. The chemistry, fermentation of the surfactins, and their uses, along with the essential features of surfactins required for fungal inhibition, are discussed. We also review the host–parasite relations of this bacterial endophyte, and its biochemical utility in an effort to bring attention to the potential qualities of B. mojavensis, and other bacterial endophytes for enhancers of plant growth and protectors of diseases.