Functional role of an endophytic Bacillus amyloliquefaciens in enhancing growth and disease protection of invasive English ivy (Hedera helix L.).
Background: We hypothesize that invasive English ivy (Hedera helix) harbors endophytic microbes that promote plant growth and survival. To evaluate this hypothesis, we examined endophytic bacteria in English ivy and evaluated effects on the host plant. Methods: Endophytic bacteria were isolated from multiple populations of English ivy in New Brunswick, NJ. Bacteria were identified as a single species Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. One strain of B. amyloliquefaciens, strain C6c, was characterized for indoleacetic acid (IAA) production, secretion of hydrolytic enzymes, phosphate solubilization, and antibiosis against pathogens. PCR was used to amplify lipopeptide genes and their secretion into culture media was detected by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Capability to promote growth of English ivy was evaluated in greenhouse experiments. The capacity of C6c to protect plants from disease was evaluated by exposing B+ (bacterium inoculated) and B- (non-inoculated) plants to the necrotrophic pathogen Alternaria tenuissima. Results: B. amyloliquefaciens C6c systemically colonized leaves, petioles, and seeds of English ivy. C6c synthesized IAA and inhibited plant pathogens. MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry analysis revealed secretion of antifungal lipopeptides surfactin, iturin, bacillomycin, and fengycin. C6c promoted the growth of English ivy in low and high soil nitrogen conditions. This endophytic bacterium efficiently controlled disease caused by Alternaria tenuissima. Conclusions: This study suggests that B. amyloliquefaciens plays an important role in enhancing growth and disease protection of English ivy.