Aims: The aim of this study was to investigate the role of proteases in Bacillus spp. of rhizobacteria in suppressing nematode populations and to understand their mechanism of action.
Methods and results: Rhizobacteria with nematicidal activity were isolated from soil samples of five root knot nematode-infested farms. Among these strains, nematotoxicities of Bacillus strains were intensively analysed. Further assays of nematicidal toxins from Bacillus sp. strain RH219 indicated an extracellular cuticle-degrading protease Apr219 was an important pathogenic factor. The Apr219 shared high similarity with previously reported cuticle-degrading proteases from Brevibacillus laterosporus strain G4 and Bacillus sp. B16 (Bacillus nematocida). The cuticle-degrading protease genes were also amplified from four other nematicidal Bacillus strains isolated from the rhizosphere. In addition to Apr219, a neutral protease Npr219 from Bacillus sp. RH219 was also investigated for activity against nematodes.
Conclusions: The wide distribution of cuticle-degrading proteases in Bacillus strains with nematicidal activity suggested that these enzymes likely play an important role in bacteria-nematode-plant-environment interactions and that they may serve as important nematicidal factors in balancing nematode populations in the soil.
Significance and impact of the study: Increased understanding of the mechanism of action of Bacillus spp. against nematodes could potentially enhance the value of these species as effective nematicidal agents and develop new biological control strategies.