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Predator-Prey Chemical Warfare Determines the Expression of Biocontrol Genes by Rhizosphere-Associated Pseudomonas fluorescens

Jousset, Alexandre, Rochat, Laurène, Scheu, Stefan, Bonkowski, Michael, Keel, Christoph
Applied and environmental microbiology 2010 v.76 no.15 pp. 5263-5268
Acanthamoeba castellanii, Amoeba, Pseudomonas fluorescens, bacterial toxins, direct contact, gene expression, genes, hydrogen cyanide, predation, predators, risk, soil bacteria, toxicity
Soil bacteria are heavily consumed by protozoan predators, and many bacteria have evolved defense strategies such as the production of toxic exometabolites. However, the production of toxins is energetically costly and therefore is likely to be adjusted according to the predation risk to balance the costs and benefits of predator defense. We investigated the response of the biocontrol bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens CHA0 to a common predator, the free-living amoeba Acanthamoeba castellanii. We monitored the effect of the exposure to predator cues or direct contact with the predators on the expression of the phlA, prnA, hcnA, and pltA genes, which are involved in the synthesis of the toxins, 2,4-diacetylphloroglucinol (DAPG), pyrrolnitrin, hydrogen cyanide, and pyoluteorin, respectively. Predator chemical cues led to 2.2-, 2.0-, and 1.2-fold increases in prnA, phlA, and hcnA expression, respectively, and to a 25% increase in bacterial toxicity. The upregulation of the tested genes was related to the antiprotozoan toxicity of the corresponding toxins. Pyrrolnitrin and DAPG had the highest toxicity, suggesting that bacteria secrete a predator-specific toxin cocktail. The response of the bacteria was elicited by supernatants of amoeba cultures, indicating that water-soluble chemical compounds were responsible for induction of the bacterial defense response. In contrast, direct contact of bacteria with living amoebae reduced the expression of the four bacterial toxin genes by up to 50%, suggesting that protozoa can repress bacterial toxicity. The results indicate that predator-prey interactions are a determinant of toxin production by rhizosphere P. fluorescens and may have an impact on its biocontrol potential.