New strategies to improve crop yield include the incorporation of plant growth-promoting bacteria in agricultural practices. The non-pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas putida KT2440 is an excellent root colonizer of crops of agronomical importance and has been shown to activate the induced systemic resistance of plants in response to certain foliar pathogens. In this work, we have analyzed additional plant growth promotion features of this strain. We show it can tolerate high NaCl concentrations and determine how salinity influences traits such as the production of indole compounds, siderophore synthesis, and phosphate solubilization. Inoculation with P. putida KT2440 significantly improved seed germination and root and stem length of soybean and corn plants under saline conditions compared to uninoculated plants, whereas the effects were minor under non-saline conditions. Also, random transposon mutagenesis was used for preliminary identification of KT2440 genes involved in bacterial tolerance to saline stress. One of the obtained mutants was analyzed in detail. The disrupted gene encodes a predicted phosphoethanolamine-lipid A transferase (EptA), an enzyme described to be involved in the modification of lipid A during lipopolysaccharide (LPS) biosynthesis. This mutant showed changes in exopolysaccharide (EPS) production, low salinity tolerance, and reduced competitive fitness in the rhizosphere.
Keywords: Exopolysaccharide; Lipopolysaccharide; Plant growth promoting rhizobacteria; Pseudomonas putida; Saline stress.