The performance of Pseudomonas biocontrol agents may be improved by applying mixtures of strains which are complementary in their capacity to suppress plant diseases. Here, we have chosen the combination of Pseudomonas fluorescens CHA0 with another well-characterized biocontrol agent, P. fluorescens Q2-87, as a model to study how these strains affect each other’s expression of a biocontrol trait. In both strains, production of the ntimicrobial compound 2,4-diacetylphloroglucinol (DAPG) is a crucial factor contributing to the suppression of root diseases. DAPG acts as a signaling compound inducing the expression of its own biosynthetic genes. Experimental setups were developed to investigate whether, when combining strains CHA0 and Q2-87, DAPG excreted by one strain may influence expression of DAPG-biosynthetic genes in the other strain in vitro and on the roots of wheat. DAPG production was monitored by observing the expression of lacZ fused to the biosynthetic gene phlA of the respective strain. Dual-culture assays in which the two strains were grown in liquid medium physically separated by a membrane revealed that Q2-87 but not its DAPG-negative mutant Q2-87::Tn5-1 strongly induced phlA expression in a phlA mutant of strain CHA0. In the same way, phlA expression in a Q2-87 background was induced by DAPG produced by CHA0. When coinoculated onto the roots of wheat seedlings grown under gnotobiotic conditions, strains Q2-87 and CHA0, but not their respective DAPG-negative mutants, were able to enhance phlA expression in each other. In summary, we have established that two nonrelated pseudomonads may stimulate each other in the expression of an antimicrobial compound important for biocontrol. This interpopulation communication occurs in the rhizosphere, i.e., at the site of pathogen inhibition, and is mediated by the antimicrobial compound itself acting as a signal exchanged between the two pseudomonads.
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