Background: Agrobacterium vitis is a causal agent of crown-gall disease. Trifolitoxin (TFX) is a peptide antibiotic active only against members of a specific group of alpha-proteobacteria that includes Agrobacterium and its close relatives. The ability of TFX production by an avirulent strain of Agrobacterium to reduce crown gall disease is examined here.
Results: TFX was shown to be inhibitory in vitro against several A. vitis strains. TFX production, expressed from the stable plasmid pT2TFXK, conferred biological control activity to an avirulent strain of A. vitis. F2/5, against three virulent, TFX-sensitive strains of A. vitis tested on Nicotiana glauca. F2/5(pT2TFXK) is significantly reduces number and size of galls when co-inoculated with tumorigenic strain CG78 at a 10:1 ratio, but is ineffective at 1:1 or 1:10 ratios. F2/5(pT2TFXK) is effective when co-inoculated with tumorigenic strain CG435 at 10:1 and 1:1 ratios, but not at a 1:10 ratio. When F2/5(pT2TFXK) is co-inoculated with CG49 at a 10:1 ratio, the incidence of gall formation does not decline but gall size decreases by more than 70%. A 24 h pre-inoculation with F2/5(pT2TFXK) does not improve biological control at the 1:10 ratio.
Conclusions: TFX production by an avirulent strain of Agrobacterium does confer in that strain the ability to control crown gall disease on Nicotiana glauca. This is the first demonstration that the production of a ribosomally synthesized, post-translationally modified peptide antibiotic can confer reduction in plant disease incidence from a bacterial pathogen.