Induction of Salt Tolerance by Enterobacter sp. SA187 in the Model Organism Arabidopsis thaliana

  • Hanin S. Alzubaidy

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Arid and semi-arid regions, mostly found in developing countries with exponentially increasing populations, are in chronic lack of water thereby severely limiting agricultural production. Irrigation with saline water, which is available in large quantities, could be an obvious solution, but current crops are all salt sensitive. Although major efforts are underway to breed salt tolerant crops, no breakthrough results have yet been obtained. One alternative could rely on plant-interacting microbiota communities. Indeed, rhizophere and endosphere microbial communities are distinct from those of the surrounding soils, and these specific communities contribute to plant growth and health by increasing nutrient availability or plant resistance towards abiotic and biotic stresses. Here we show that plant microbe interactions induce plant tolerance to multiple stresses. From a collection of strains isolated from the desert plant Indigofera argentea, we could identify at least four different strategies to induce salt stress tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana. A deep analysis of Enterobacter sp. SA187 showed that it induces Arabidopsis tolerance to salinity through activation of the ethylene signaling pathway. Interestingly, although SA187 does not produce ethylene as such, the association of SA187 with plants induces the expression of the methionine salvage pathway in SA187 resulting in the conversion of bacterially produced 2-keto-4-methylthiobutyric acid (KMBA) to ethylene. In addition, a metabolic network characterization of both SA187 and Arabidopsis in their free-living and endophytic state revealed that the sulfur metabolic pathways are strongly upregulated in both organisms. Furthermore, plant genetic experiments verified the essential role of the sulfur metabolism and ethylene signaling in plant salt stress tolerance. Our findings demonstrate how successful plant microbes of a given community can help other plants to enhance tolerance to abiotic stress, and reveal a part of the complex molecular communication process during beneficial plant-microbe interaction.
Date of AwardSep 2020
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorHeribert Hirt (Supervisor)


  • STPB
  • Ethylene signaling
  • abiotic stress
  • salt stress tolerance
  • sulfur metabolism
  • plant beneficial microbes

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