Genetic Control of Plant Root Colonization by the Biocontrol agent, Pseudomonas fluorescens:
Plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) are a critical component of plant root ecosystems. PGPR promote plant growth by solubilizing inaccessible minerals, suppressing pathogenic microorganisms in the soil, and directly stimulating growth through hormone synthesis. Pseudomonas fluorescens is a well-established PGPR isolated from wheat roots that can also colonize the root system of the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. We have created barcoded transposon insertion mutant libraries suitable for genome-wide transposon-mediated mutagenesis followed by sequencing (TnSeq). These libraries consist of over 105 independent insertions, collectively providing loss-of-function mutants for nearly all genes in the P.fluorescens genome. Each insertion mutant can be unambiguously identified by a randomized 20 nucleotide sequence (barcode) engineered into the transposon sequence. We used these libraries in a gnotobiotic assay to examine the colonization ability of P.fluorescens on A.thaliana roots. Taking advantage of the ability to distinguish individual colonization events using barcode sequences, we assessed the timing and microbial concentration dependence of colonization of the rhizoplane niche. These data provide direct insight into the dynamics of plant root colonization in an in vivo system and define baseline parameters for the systematic identification of the bacterial genes and molecular pathways using TnSeq assays. Having determined parameters that facilitate potential colonization of roots by thousands of independent insertion mutants in a single assay, we are currently establishing a genome-wide functional map of genes required for root colonization in P.fluorescens. Importantly, the approach developed and optimized here for P.fluorescens>A.thaliana colonization will be applicable to a wide range of plant-microbe interactions, including biofuel feedstock plants and microbes known or hypothesized to impact on biofuel-relevant traits including biomass productivity and pathogen resistance.