Thursday, 12 July 2012

Biocontrol bacteria

While I put together the rest of my reflections on five years series, here's something else in the meantime. After a marathon effort, we've finally published our manuscript on the genomes of biocontrol Pseudomonas bacteria in PLoS Genetics. Biological control is the use of biological organisms to control pathogens, parasites or other pests. In this case, we are looking to use Pseudomonas bacteria that live naturally on plant roots, leaves or blossoms to protect plants from plant disease. An example of a bacterial biocontrol agent is Pseudomonas fluorescens A506 which is sold commercially as BlightBan A506 and is used for the suppression or control of the disease fireblight in pear and apple orchards.

This is an area of research I got into through collaboration with Joyce Loper's group in Corvallis, Oregon. Together with Joyce and an army of other collaborators we published the first genome of a biocontrol bacteria, Pseudomonas fluorescens Pf-5 in Nature Biotechnology back in 2005. We decided to follow up this original genome paper by looking at a broader range of biocontrol Pseudomonas bacteria that were specific for different plant hosts and provided protection against different plant pathogens.

This became somewhat of a marathon project. We wrote the original grant to the United States Department of Agriculture to fund this work back in early 2006. The sequencing work started in 2007. This was then followed by literally years of effort in analyzing the genomes and undertaking functional studies to confirm the findings from genome gazing. We wanted to make this a comprehensive or definitive work on the topic. It was a massive relief when we finally managed to get the manuscript submitted early this year. The reviewers of the manuscript appreciated it's monumental nature, with one of them stating "This manuscript stands well above the crowd, representing an heroic level of genome characterization and overall being a model of what such studies should aspire to." I can honestly say I haven't had a reviewer say that before.

Thanks to the whole team of collaborators who worked hard on this project, particularly Joyce Loper, without whose tireless efforts this paper would never have seen the light of day.

Fig 6 from the PLoS Genetics paper showcasing the different capabilities of the sequenced Pseudomonas biocontrol bacteria- not only informative but also highly attractive!

1 comment:

  1. Corrected a mistake in this post. The correct funding agency was the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.