Does wheat genetically modified for disease resistance affect root-colonizing pseudomonads and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi?

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53825. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053825. Epub 2013 Jan 23.


This study aimed to evaluate the impact of genetically modified (GM) wheat with introduced pm3b mildew resistance transgene, on two types of root-colonizing microorganisms, namely pseudomonads and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Our investigations were carried out in field trials over three field seasons and at two locations. Serial dilution in selective King's B medium and microscopy were used to assess the abundance of cultivable pseudomonads and AMF, respectively. We developed a denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) method to characterize the diversity of the pqqC gene, which is involved in Pseudomonas phosphate solubilization. A major result was that in the first field season Pseudomonas abundances and diversity on roots of GM pm3b lines, but also on non-GM sister lines were different from those of the parental lines and conventional wheat cultivars. This indicates a strong effect of the procedures by which these plants were created, as GM and sister lines were generated via tissue cultures and propagated in the greenhouse. Moreover, Pseudomonas population sizes and DGGE profiles varied considerably between individual GM lines with different genomic locations of the pm3b transgene. At individual time points, differences in Pseudomonas and AMF accumulation between GM and control lines were detected, but they were not consistent and much less pronounced than differences detected between young and old plants, different conventional wheat cultivars or at different locations and field seasons. Thus, we conclude that impacts of GM wheat on plant-beneficial root-colonizing microorganisms are minor and not of ecological importance. The cultivation-independent pqqC-DGGE approach proved to be a useful tool for monitoring the dynamics of Pseudomonas populations in a wheat field and even sensitive enough for detecting population responses to altered plant physiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis
  • Gene Expression
  • Mycorrhizae / genetics
  • Mycorrhizae / growth & development*
  • Plant Immunity / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified*
  • Pseudomonas / genetics
  • Pseudomonas / growth & development*
  • Seasons
  • Transgenes
  • Triticum / genetics*
  • Triticum / immunology*
  • Triticum / microbiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Pm3b protein, Triticum aestivum
  • PqqC protein, Bacteria

Grant support

This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (National Research Program NRP59, project 405940-115596). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.