Summary: Root surface colonization by Cd of tomato, pepper and cotton plants under normal growth conditions and soybean plants under normal and water-stress conditions was monitored by scanning electron microscopy and bacterial counts. Cd was capable of efficiently colonizing the elongation and root-hair zones of all four plant species tested. In these zones, the bacteria mainly colonized the root surface (tomato, soybean), root-hairs (pepper), or both (cotton), by single cells (tomato, soybean), micro-aggregates (pepper), or a combination of the two (cotton). All inoculated plants demonstrated (i) larger amounts of mucigel-like substance on the root surface than non-inoculated plants and (ii) fibrillar material which anchored the bacterial cells to the root surface and established connections between cells within bacterial aggregates. On non-water-stressed soybean plants, most Cd cells in the rhizosphere occurred as vibroid forms whereas those on water-stressed plants (wilting) were cyst-like. A lower rhizosphere bacterial population was observed on water-stressed plants. When water-stress conditions were eliminated, the bacterial cells reverted to the vibroid form and a concomitant increase in the bacterial population was observed. It is suggested that cyst-like formation is a natural response for Cd in the rhizosphere of water-stressed plants.


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