Molecular and Morphological Characterization and Biological Control Capabilities of a Pasteuria ssp. Parasitizing Rotylenchulus reniformis, the Reniform Nematode

Liesbeth M. Schmidt, Thomas E. Hewlett, April Green, Lee J. Simmons, Karen Kelley, Mark Doroh, Salliana R. Stetina


Rotylenchulus reniformis is one of 10 described species of reniform nematodes and is considered the most economically significant pest within the genus, parasitizing a variety of important agricultural crops. Rotylenchulus reniformis collected from cotton fields in the Southeastern US were observed to have the nematode parasitic bacterium Pasteuria attached to their cuticles. Challenge with a Pasteuria-specific monoclonal antibody in live immuno-fluorescent assay (IFA) confirmed the discovery of Pasteuria infecting R. reniformis. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy were employed to observe endospore ultrastructure and sporogenesis within the host. Pasteuria were observed to infect and complete their life-cycle in juvenile, male and female R. reniformis. Molecular analysis using Pasteuria species-specific and degenerate primers for 16s rRNA and spoII, and subsequent phylogenetic assessment, placed the Pasteuria associated with R. reniformis in a distinct clade within established assemblages for the Pasteuria infecting phytopathogenic nematodes. A global phylogenetic assessment of Pasteuria 16s rDNA using the Neighbor-Joining method resulted in a clear branch with 100% boot-strap support that effectively partitioned the Pasteuria infecting phytopathogenic nematodes from the Pasteuria associated with bacterivorous nematodes. Phylogenetic analysis of the R. reniformis Pasteuria and Pasteuria spp. parasitizing a number of economically important plant parasitic nematodes revealed that Pasteuria with different host specificities are closely related and likely constitute biotypes of the same species. This suggests host preference, and thus effective differentiation and classification are most likely predicated by an influential virulence determinant(s) that has yet to be elucidated. Pasteuria Pr3 endospores produced by in vitro fermentation demonstrated efficacy as a commercial bionematicide to control R. reniformis on cotton in pot tests, when applied as a seed treatment and in a granular formulation. Population control was comparable to a seed-applied nematicide/insecticide (thiodicarb/imidacloprid) at a seed coating application rate of 1.0 x 10 8 spores/seed.

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