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Diversity and characterization of culturable bacterial endophytes from Zea mays and their potential as plant growth-promoting agents in metal-degraded soils

Pereira, S. I. A., Castro, P. M. L.
Environmental science and pollution research international 2014 v.21 no.24 pp. 14110-14123
Acidovorax, Agrobacterium, Curtobacterium, DNA, Frigoribacterium faeni, Ochrobactrum, Pantoea, Pseudomonas, Variovorax, Zea mays, agricultural soils, biomass, cadmium, corn, endophytes, enzymes, genes, hydrogen cyanide, indole acetic acid, phylogeny, phytoremediation, plant tissues, plate count, polluted soils, ribosomal RNA, root growth, roots, seedlings, shoots, siderophores, zinc
In this study, we evaluated the phylogenetic diversity of culturable bacterial endophytes of Zea mays plants growing in an agricultural soil contaminated with Zn and Cd. Endophytic bacterial counts were determined in roots and shoots, and isolates were grouped by random amplified polymorphic DNA and identified by 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequencing. Endophytes were further characterized for the production of plant growth-promoting (PGP) substances, such as NH₃, siderophores, indol-3-acetic acid (IAA), hydrogen cyanide and extracellular enzymes, and for the capacity to solubilize phosphate. The endophytes producing higher amounts of IAA were screened for their tolerance to Zn and Cd and used as bioinoculants for maize seedlings grown in the Zn/Cd-contaminated soil. The counts of endophytes varied between plant tissues, being higher in roots (6.48 log₁₀g⁻¹fresh weight) when compared to shoots (5.77 log₁₀g⁻¹fresh weight). Phylogenetic analysis showed that endophytes belong to three major groups: α-Proteobacteria (31 %), γ-Proteobacteria (26 %) and Actinobacteria (26 %). Pseudomonas, Agrobacterium, Variovorax and Curtobacterium were among the most represented genera. Endophytes were well-adapted to high Zn/Cd concentrations (up to 300 mg Cd l⁻¹and 1,000 mg Zn l⁻¹) and showed ability to produce several PGP traits. Strains Ochrobactrum haematophilum ZR 3-5, Acidovorax oryzae ZS 1-7, Frigoribacterium faeni ZS 3-5 and Pantoea allii ZS 3-6 increased root elongation and biomass of maize seedlings grown in soil contaminated with Cd and Zn. The endophytes isolated in this study have potential to be used in bioremediation/phytoremediation strategies.