Plant Pathology Department


Date of this Version



Published in PHYTOPATHOLGY 90:4 (2000), pp. 384-389. [Used by permission.]


The role of chitinase production by Stenotrophomonas maltophilia strain C3 in biological control of leaf spot on tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), caused by Bipolaris sorokiniana, was investigated in vitro and in vivo. The filtrate of a broth culture of C3, with chitin as the carbon source, was separated into fractions. A high molecular-weight fraction (>8 kDa) was chitinolytic and more inhibitory than a low-molecularweight, nonchitinolytic fraction to conidial germination and hyphal growth by B. sorokiniana and to leaf spot development. A protein fraction derived by ammonium sulfate precipitation and a chitinase fraction purified by chitin affinity chromatography also were chitinolytic and highly antifungal. The chitinolytic fractions caused swelling and vacuolation of conidia and discoloration, malformation, and degradation of germ tubes. When boiled, the chitinolytic fractions lost chitinase activity along with most of the antifungal properties. Two chitinase-deficient and two chitinase- reduced mutants of C3 were compared with the wild-type strain for inhibition of germination of B. sorokiniana conidia on tall fescue leaves and for suppression of leaf spot development in vivo. The mutants exhibited reduced antifungal activity and biocontrol efficacy, but did not lose all biocontrol activity. An aqueous extract of leaves colonized by wild-type C3 had higher chitinase activity than that of noncolonized leaves and was inhibitory to conidial germination. The addition of chitin to leaves along with the wild-type strain increased both chitinase and antifungal activity. The chitinase activity level of extracts from leaves colonized by a chitinase-deficient mutant of C3, with and without added chitin, was no higher than the background, and the extracts lacked antifungal activity. Chitinolysis appears to be one mechanism of biological control by strain C3, and it functions in concert with other mechanisms.