In situ identification of plant-invasive bacteria with MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry.

Ziegler, Dominik and Mariotti, Anna and Pflüger, Valentin and Saad, Maged M and Vogel, Guido and Tonolla, Mauro and Perret, Xavier (2012) In situ identification of plant-invasive bacteria with MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. PloS one, 7 (5). e37189. ISSN 1932-6203

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Rhizobia form a disparate collection of soil bacteria capable of reducing atmospheric nitrogen in symbiosis with legumes. The study of rhizobial populations in nature involves the collection of large numbers of nodules found on roots or stems of legumes, and the subsequent typing of nodule bacteria. To avoid the time-consuming steps of isolating and cultivating nodule bacteria prior to genotyping, a protocol of strain identification based on the comparison of MALDI-TOF MS spectra was established. In this procedure, plant nodules were considered as natural bioreactors that amplify clonal populations of nitrogen-fixing bacteroids. Following a simple isolation procedure, bacteroids were fingerprinted by analysing biomarker cellular proteins of 3 to 13 kDa using Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time of Flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry. In total, bacteroids of more than 1,200 nodules collected from roots of three legumes of the Phaseoleae tribe (cowpea, soybean or siratro) were examined. Plants were inoculated with pure cultures of a slow-growing Bradyrhizobium japonicum strain G49, or either of two closely related and fast-growing Sinorhizobium fredii strains NGR234 and USDA257, or with mixed inoculants. In the fully automatic mode, correct identification of bacteroids was obtained for >97% of the nodules, and reached 100% with a minimal manual input in processing of spectra. These results showed that MALDI-TOF MS is a powerful tool for the identification of intracellular bacteria taken directly from plant tissues.

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