Investigating Burkholderia cepacia complex populations recovered from Italian maize rhizosphere by multilocus sequence typing

Claudia Dalmastri, Adam Baldwin, Silvia Tabacchioni, Annamaria Bevivino, Eshwar Mahenthiralingam, Luigi Chiarini, Christopher Dowson

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The Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC) comprises at least nine closely related species of abundant environmental microorganisms. Some of these species are highly spread in the rhizosphere of several crop plants, particularly of maize; additionally, as opportunistic pathogens, strains of the BCC are capable of colonizing humans. We have developed and validated a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme for the BCC. Although widely applied to understand the epidemiology of bacterial pathogens, MLST has seen limited application to the population analysis of species residing in the natural environment; we describe its novel application to BCC populations within maize rhizospheres. 115 BCC isolates were recovered from the roots of different maize cultivars from three different Italian regions over a 9-year period (1994-2002). A total of 44 sequence types (STs) were found of which 41 were novel when compared with existing MLST data which encompassed a global database of 1000 clinical and environmental strains representing nearly 400 STs. In this study of rhizosphere isolates approximately 2.5 isolates per ST was found, comparable to that found for the whole BCC population. Multilocus sequence typing also resolved inaccuracies associated with previous identification of the maize isolates based on recA gene restriction fragment length polymorphims and species-specific polymerase chain reaction. The 115 maize isolates comprised the following BCC species groups, B. ambifaria (39%), BCC6 (29%), BCC5 (10%), B. pyrrocinia (8%), B. cenocepacia IIIB (7%) and B. cepacia (6%), with BCC5 and BCC6 potentially constituting novel species groups within the complex. Closely related clonal complexes of strains were identified within B. cepacia, B. cenocepacia IIIB, BCC5 and BCC6, with one of the BCC5 clonal complexes being distributed across all three sampling sites. Overall, our analysis demonstrates that the maize rhizosphere harbours a massive diversity of novel BCC STs, so that their addition to our global MLST database increased the ST diversity by 10%. © 2007 The Authors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1632 - 1639
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

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