Tylenchulus semipenetrans Alters the Microbial Community in the Citrus Rhizosphere


  • F. E. El-Borai
  • L. W. Duncan
  • J. H. Graham
  • E. Dickstein


bacillus megaterium, burkholderia cepacia, interaction, nematode, phytophthora nicotianae, rhizosphere microorganisms, tylenchulus semipenetrans


Infection of citrus seedlings by Tylenchulus semipenetrans was shown to reduce subsequent infection of roots by Phytophthora nicotianae and to increase plant growth compared to plants infected by only the fungus. Hypothetical mechanisms by which the nematode suppresses fungal development include nutrient competition, direct antibiosis, or alteration of the microbial community in the rhizosphere to favor microorganisms antagonistic to P. nicotianae. A test of the last hypothesis was conducted via surveys of five sites in each of three citrus orchards infested with both organisms. A total of 180 2-cm-long fibrous root segments, half with a female T. semipenetrans egg mass on the root surface and half without, were obtained from each orchard site. The samples were macerated in water, and fungi and bacteria in the suspensions were isolated, quantified, and identified. No differences were detected in the numbers of microorganism species isolated from nematode-infected and uninfected root segments. However, nematode-infected root segments had significantly more propagules of bacteria at all orchard sites. Bacillus megaterium and Burkholderia cepacia were the dominant bacterial species recovered. Bacteria belonging to the genera Arthrobacter and Stenotrophomonas were encountered less frequently. The fungus community was dominated by Fusarium solani, but Trichoderma, Verticillum, Phythophthora, and Penicillium spp. also were recovered. All isolated bacteria equally inhibited the growth of P. nicotianae in vitro. Experiments using selected bacteria, T. semipenetrans, and P. nicotianae, alone or in combination, were conducted in both the laboratory and greenhouse. Root and stem fresh weights of P. nicotianae-infected plants treated with T. semipenetrans, B. cepacia, or B. megaterium were greater than for plants treated only with the fungus. Phytophthora nicotianae protein in roots of fungus-infected plants was reduced by nematodes (P = 0.001), either alone or in combination with either bacterium. However, treatment with bacteria did not affect P. nicotianae development in roots. The results suggest different mechanisms by which T. semipenetrans, B. cepacia, and B. megaterium may mitigate virulence of P. nicotianae.