Flagella-driven chemotaxis towards exudate components is an important trait for tomato root colonization by Pseudomonas fluorescens

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2002 Nov;15(11):1173-80. doi: 10.1094/MPMI.2002.15.11.1173.


Motility is a major trait for competitive tomato root-tip colonization by Pseudomonas fluorescens. To test the hypothesis that this role of motility is based on chemotaxis toward exudate components, cheA mutants that were defective in flagella-driven chemotaxis but retained motility were constructed in four P. fluorescens strains. After inoculation of seedlings with a 1:1 mixture of wild-type and nonmotile mutants all mutants had a strongly reduced competitive root colonizing ability after 7 days of plant growth, both in a gnotobiotic sand system as well as in nonsterile potting soil. The differences were significant on all root parts and increased from root base to root tip. Significant differences at the root tip could already be detected after 2 to 3 days. These experiments show that chemotaxis is an important competitive colonization trait. The best competitive root-tip colonizer, strain WCS365, was tested for chemotaxis toward tomato root exudate and its major identified components. A chemotactic response was detected toward root exudate, some organic acids, and some amino acids from this exudate but not toward its sugars. Comparison of the minimal concentrations required for a chemotactic response with concentrations estimated for exudates suggested that malic acid and citric acid are among major chemo-attractants for P. fluorescens WCS365 cells in the tomato rhizosphere.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Carbohydrates / analysis
  • Chemotaxis / genetics
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Citric Acid / metabolism
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Lycopersicon esculentum / metabolism*
  • Lycopersicon esculentum / microbiology
  • Malates / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Plant Roots / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / microbiology
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens / genetics
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens / growth & development*


  • Amino Acids
  • Carbohydrates
  • Malates
  • Citric Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • malic acid