Microbial communities of Solanum tuberosum and magainin-producing transgenic lines

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Antimicrobial peptide magainin II, isolated from the skin of the African clawed toad, has shown activity in vitro against a range of micro-organisms. Transgenic potato lines expressing a synthetic magainin gene show improved resistance to the bacterial plant pathogen, Erwinia carotovora. Culturable bacterial and fungal communities associated with magainin-producing potato plants were compared with those communities from the non-transgenic parental control and with another potato cultivar. Total numbers of aerobic bacteria recovered from the leaves of the magainin-producing line, its non-transgenic parent line and an unrelated cultivar did not differ significantly. There were no detectable differences in the numbers of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, pseudomonad populations or fungi recovered from foliage from the three plant lines. Bacterial populations recovered from the roots of a magainin-expressing plant line did not differ significantly from populations recovered from the unmodified parental line. Tubers from the magainin-expressing transgenic potatoes, however, had significantly lower total numbers of bacteria than tubers produced by unmodified plants. In vitro testing of rhizosphere isolates against magainin analogues found that bacterial isolates varied in their susceptibility to the peptides. There were no significant differences in the total numbers of fungi and yeasts recovered from the various plant lines, with one exception: higher numbers of fungi were recovered from roots of magainin-expressing plants than the unmodified control plants.

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