Exploring a New Tomato Plant Bacteriophage Discovered in a Cave

Jenn Hoskins
10th April, 2024

Exploring a New Tomato Plant Bacteriophage Discovered in a Cave

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Guizhou, scientists discovered a new virus, phage D6, that targets the tomato plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae
  • Phage D6 can rapidly multiply and is stable across typical tomato-growing conditions, suggesting its use as a biocontrol agent
  • When applied to tomato plants, phage D6 reduced disease severity and bacterial count, showing promise as an eco-friendly plant protector
Scientists at Guizhou Normal University have discovered a new ally in the fight against a common plant disease caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae, which attacks tomatoes and other crops, threatening food security worldwide[1]. This new player is a virus that preys on bacteria, known as a phage. The recently identified phage, named D6, specifically targets the strain of P. syringae that affects tomatoes, and the study reveals its potential as a biological weapon to control this plant pathogen. Pseudomonas syringae is notorious for its ability to suppress plant immune responses and create a watery environment within the leaves where it thrives[2]. This has made it a significant problem for agriculture, as it leads to reduced crop yields. Traditional methods to combat such pathogens include chemical pesticides, which can be harmful to the environment and human health. Therefore, finding alternative and eco-friendly ways to protect crops is of great interest. Phage D6 was isolated from sediment in a karst cave, a unique environment that has proven to be a rich source of novel phages. Phages are viruses that infect and kill bacteria, making them a natural choice for biological control. The study found that D6 has a short life cycle, multiplying and bursting out of its bacterial host within an hour, and it can produce 16 new infectious particles per infected cell. The robustness of phage D6 was tested under various conditions. It remained stable and infectious across a range of temperatures and pH levels that are typical of the environments in which tomatoes are grown. However, extreme conditions such as high heat or very acidic or alkaline pH levels did inactivate the phage. Analysis of the phage D6 genome revealed that it is a unique virus with little similarity to other known phages. Its genetic material includes a number of genes that are likely to be involved in the infection of its bacterial host. Interestingly, the phage carries its own set of tRNAs, which are molecules that help decode the genetic information into proteins. This suggests that phage D6 might not be entirely reliant on the host bacterium's machinery for replication, which could be an advantage in its effectiveness as a biocontrol agent. When tomato plants were treated with phage D6 before being exposed to Pseudomonas syringae, the results were promising. The phage treatment significantly reduced the severity of disease symptoms and the number of bacteria in the plants. This indicates that phage D6 could be used to protect crops from this pathogen. The use of phages for biocontrol ties in with earlier studies that explore the interactions between plants, pathogens, and their environment. For instance, Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant, has helped scientists understand how plants reprogram their gene expression in response to pathogen attack and stress hormones[3]. This knowledge is crucial for developing strategies to enhance plant defenses. Moreover, the study of copper-resistant bacteria in agricultural soils has shown how bacterial communities adapt to environmental stress by acquiring genetic determinants for resistance[4]. Similarly, phages like D6 adapt to their bacterial hosts, evolving mechanisms to infect and kill them efficiently. In summary, the discovery of phage D6 by researchers at Guizhou Normal University opens up new possibilities for managing plant diseases in an environmentally friendly manner. This novel phage's effectiveness against Pseudomonas syringae in tomatoes suggests that it could be a valuable tool in sustainable agriculture. The findings of this study not only contribute to our understanding of phage biology but also offer a potential solution to a pressing agricultural problem. As the world looks to reduce its reliance on chemical pesticides, phage-based biocontrol could be a key component of the future of plant disease management.

BiotechGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Characteristics and whole-genome analysis of a novel Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato bacteriophage D6 isolated from a karst cave.

Published 9th April, 2024


Related Studies

2) Pseudomonas syringae: what it takes to be a pathogen.


3) Identification of stably expressed reference genes for expression studies in Arabidopsis thaliana using mass spectrometry-based label-free quantification.


4) Characterization of copper-resistant bacteria and bacterial communities from copper-polluted agricultural soils of central Chile.


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