Use of fatty acid methyl ester profiles to compare copper-tolerant andcopper-sensitive strains of Pantoea ananatis

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A survey was conducted to evaluate differences in fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) profiles among strains of Pantoea ananatis, causal agent of center rot of onion (Allium cepa), isolated from 15 different onion cultivars in three different sites in Georgia. Differences in FAME composition were determined by plotting principal components (PCs) in two-dimensional plots. Euclidean distance squared (ED2) values indicated a high degree of similarity among strains. Plotting of PCs calculated from P. ananatis strains capable of growing on media amended with copper sulfate pentahydrate (200 μg/ml) indicated that copper-tolerant strains grouped into tight clusters separate from clusters formed by wild-type strains. However, unlike copper-sensitive strains, the copper-tolerant strains tended to cluster by location. A total of 80, 60, and 73% of the strains from Tift1, Tift2, and Tattnall, respectively, exhibited either confluent growth or partial growth on copper-amended medium. However, all strains were sensitive to a mixture of copper sulfate pentahydrate (200 μg/ml) and maneb (40 μg/ml). When copper-tolerant clones were analyzed and compared with their wild-type parents, in all cases the plotting of PCs developed from copper-tolerant clones formed tight clusters separate from clusters formed by the parents. Eigenvalues generated from these tests indicated that two components provided a good summary of the data, accounting for 98, 98, and 96% of the standardized variance for strains Pna 1-15B, Pna 1-12B, and Pna 2-5A, respectively. Furthermore, feature 4 (cis-9-hexadecenoic acid/2-hydroxy-13-methyltetradecanoic acid) and feature 7 (cis-9/trans-12/cis-7-octadecenoic acid) were the highest or second highest absolute values for PC1 in all three strains of the parents versus copper-tolerant clones, and hexadecanoic acid was the highest absolute value for PC2 in all three strains. Along with those fatty acids, dodecanoic acid and feature 3 (3-hydroxytetradecanoic acid/14-methylpentadecenoic acid) also had an impact on the differences observed between copper-sensitive parents and copper-resistant mutants. Finding these changes in bacterial fatty acid composition could lead to the development of a laboratory assay to identify copper-tolerant strains using gas chromatography as well as providing clues to further elucidate the mode of action of copper tolerance.

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