A simple and stable method of tagging Agrobacterium fabrum C58 for environmental monitoring
Agrobacterium fabrum is one of the eleven Agrobacterium spp. complex species that has been observed to carry a Ti plasmid and induce crown gall, a disease causing significant damage to economically important perennial agricultural crops. Members of this species complex, including A. fabrum, are morphologically indistinguishable from one another on culture media and are known to grow together in soil and within host galls. Consequently, the tracking of this species in its natural environment requires a cautious approach to tagging strains without altering any of their ecologically important traits. A gentamicin resistant cassette (aacC1) was inserted, by homologous recombination, into a non-coding region of the A. fabrum C58 chromosome between the genes atu1182 and atu1183. The resultant strain did not show any significant in vitro growth differences compared to the wild-type strain, and the marker was stable in rich medium, both with and without selective pressure. The mutant/marked strain was indistinguishable from the parental strain for ability to induce galls, grow in bulk soil and colonize the rhizosphere of tomato plants. Easy, precise, safe and stable tagging of the A. fabrum C58 genome facilitates environmental population surveys by either simple selection or direct detection by PCR. This methodology provides understanding of the ecology of this species complex as an integral part of managing the soil microbiota for improved crown gall management.
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