Gnotobiotic system for studying rhizosphere colonization by plant growth-promoting Pseudomonas bacteria

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 1996 Sep;9(7):600-7. doi: 10.1094/mpmi-9-0600.


A gnotobiotic system for studying tomato rhizosphere colonization by Pseudomonas bacteria was developed. The system is based on sterile seedlings that are inoculated with one or two strains and subsequently grown in a sterile glass tube containing quartz sand. After 7 days of growth in a climate-controlled growth chamber, the number of bacteria present on the root tip was analyzed. The system was optimized with respect to root morphology, inoculation of the seedling, and isolation of root tip bacteria. With this system, rhizosphere colonization on tomato, radish, wheat, and potato was analyzed. For detailed analysis of tomato rhizosphere colonization by some representative plant growth-promoting rhizo-bacteria, the colonization of known poor, moderate, and good potato root-colonizing Pseudomonas strains and of four Rhizobium strains was determined. All strains colonized the root tips when inoculated as single strains. When inoculated in competition with the efficient root colonizer P. fluorescens strain WCS365, many strains were outcompeted. Mutants of Pseudomonas biocontrol bacteria lacking flagella or the O-antigen of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which were isolated in previous studies and shown to be impaired in potato rhizosphere colonization in field soil systems, showed a reduced colonization ability in the gnotobiotic system also. The gnotobiotic system was used to screen a collection of 300 random P. fluorescens WCS365::Tn5 mutants for colonization-impaired mutants. Three novel mutants were found that were outcompeted by the wild-type strain in tomato root tip colonization but were not impaired in known colonization traits such as motility, amino acid auxotrophy, and presence of the O-antigenic side chain of LPS. One strain appeared to be a thiamine auxotroph, suggesting that the root does not secrete a sufficient amount of thiamine to support growth of this strain. The other two mutants had a reduced growth rate in laboratory media, suggesting that growth rate is an important colonization factor. As the system is gnotobiotic and devoid of field-soil variables, it can also be used to study the effects of selected biotic and abiotic factors on colonization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli
  • Germ-Free Life
  • Lycopersicon esculentum / growth & development*
  • Lycopersicon esculentum / microbiology*
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • O Antigens
  • Plant Roots
  • Pseudomonas / physiology*
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens / genetics
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens / physiology*
  • Solanum tuberosum / microbiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Triticum / microbiology
  • Vegetables / microbiology


  • O Antigens