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PLoS ONE
Vol. 8, No. 6, 20
13

Protozoa Drive the Dynamics of Culturable Biocontrol Bacterial Communities

Maren Stella Müller, Stefan Scheu, Alexandre Jousset

Georg August University Göttingen, J. F. Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Göttingen, Germany.

Abstract

Some soil bacteria protect plants against soil-borne diseases by producing toxic secondary metabolites. Such beneficial biocontrol bacteria can be used in agricultural systems as alternative to agrochemicals. The broad spectrum toxins responsible for plant protection also inhibit predation by protozoa and nematodes, the main consumers of bacteria in soil. Therefore, predation pressure may favour biocontrol bacteria and contribute to plant health. We analyzed the effect of Acanthamoeba castellanii on semi-natural soil bacterial communities in a microcosm experiment. We determined the frequency of culturable bacteria carrying genes responsible for the production of the antifungal compounds 2,4-diacetylphloroglucinol (DAPG), pyrrolnitrin (PRN) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) in presence and absence of A. castellanii. We then measured if amoebae affected soil suppressiveness in a bioassay with sugar beet seedlings confronted to the fungal pathogen Rhizoctonia solani. Amoebae increased the frequency of both DAPG and HCN positive bacteria in later plant growth phases (2 and 3 weeks), as well as the average number of biocontrol genes per bacterium. The abundance of DAPG positive bacteria correlated with disease suppression, suggesting that their promotion by amoebae may enhance soil health. However, the net effect of amoebae on soil suppressiveness was neutral to slightly negative, possibly because amoebae slow down the establishment of biocontrol bacteria on the recently emerged seedlings used in the assay. The results indicate that microfaunal predators foster biocontrol bacterial communities. Understanding interactions between biocontrol bacteria and their predators may thus help developing environmentally friendly management practices of agricultural systems.

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