Open Access Research article

Genetic relationships among Italian and Mexican maize-rhizosphere Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC) populations belonging to Burkholderia cenocepacia IIIB and BCC6 group

Annamaria Bevivino1*, Barbara Costa1, Cristina Cantale1, Silvia Cesarini1, Luigi Chiarini1, Silvia Tabacchioni1, Jesus Caballero-Mellado2 and Claudia Dalmastri1

Author Affiliations

1 ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development) Casaccia Research Center - Technical Unit for Sustainable Development and Innovation of Agro-Industrial System, Via Anguillarese 301, 00123 S. Maria di Galeria, Rome, Italy

2 Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ap. Postal 565-A, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:228  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-228

Published: 13 October 2011



A close association between maize roots and Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC) bacteria has been observed in different locations globally. In this study we investigated by MultiLocus Restriction Typing (MLRT) the genetic diversity and relationships among Burkholderia cenocepacia IIIB and BCC6 populations associated with roots of maize plants cultivated in geographically distant countries (Italy and Mexico), in order to provide new insights into their population structure, evolution and ecology.


The 31 B. cenocepacia IIIB and 65 BCC6 isolates gave rise to 29 and 39 different restriction types (RTs), respectively. Two pairs of isolates of B. cenocepacia IIIB and BCC6, recovered from both Italian and Mexican maize rhizospheres, were found to share the same RT. The eBURST (Based Upon Related Sequence Types) analysis of MLRT data grouped all the B. cenocepacia IIIB isolates into four clonal complexes, with the RT-4-complex including the 42% of them, while the majority of the BCC6 isolates (94%) were grouped into the RT-104-complex. These two main clonal complexes included RTs shared by both Italian and Mexican maize rhizospheres and a clear relationship between grouping and maize variety was also found. Grouping established by eBURST correlated well with the assessment using unweighted-pair group method with arithmetic mean (UPGMA). The standardized index of association values obtained in both B. cenocepacia IIIB and BCC6 suggests an epidemic population structure in which occasional clones emerge and spread.


Taken together our data demonstrate a wide dispersal of certain B. cenocepacia IIIB and BCC6 isolates in Mexican and Italian maize rhizospheres. Despite the clear relationship found between the geographic origin of isolates and grouping, identical RTs and closely related isolates were observed in geographically distant regions. Ecological factors and selective pressure may preferably promote some genotypes within each local microbial population, favouring the spread of a single clone above the rest of the recombinant population.