Genetic basis in plants for interactions with disease-suppressive bacteria

Kevin P. Smith, Jo Handelsman, Robert M. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Plant health depends, in part, on associations with disease-suppressive microflora, but little is known about the role of plant genes in establishing such associations. Identifying such genes will contribute to understanding the basis for plant health in natural communities and to new strategies to reduce dependence on pesticides in agriculture. To assess the role of the plant host in disease suppression, we used a genetic mapping population of tomato to evaluate the efficacy of the biocontrol agent Bacillus cereus against the seed pathogen Pythium torulosum. We detected significant phenotypic variation among recombinant inbred lines that comprise the mapping population for resistance to P. torulosum, disease suppression by B. cereus, and growth of B. cereus on the seed. Genetic analysis revealed that three quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with disease suppression by B. cereus explained 38% of the phenotypic variation among the recombinant inbred lines. In two cases, QTL for disease suppression by B. cereus map to the same locations as QTL for other traits, suggesting that the host effect on biocontrol is mediated by different mechanisms. The discovery of a genetic basis in the host for interactions with a biocontrol agent suggests new opportunities to exploit natural genetic variation in host species to enhance our understanding of beneficial plant microbe interactions and develop ecologically sound strategies for disease control in agriculture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4786-4790
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 27 1999


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