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Polymyxin P is the active principle in suppressing phytopathogenic Erwinia spp. by the biocontrol rhizobacterium Paenibacillus polymyxa M-1

Ben Niu127, Joachim Vater3, Christian Rueckert4, Jochen Blom4, Maik Lehmann5, Jin-Jiang Ru1, Xiao-Hua Chen2, Qi Wang1* and Rainer Borriss26*

Author Affiliations

1 The MOA Key Laboratory of Plant Pathology, Department of Plant Pathology, College of Agronomy and Biotechnology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, PR China

2 Institut für Biologie/Bakteriengenetik, Humboldt Universität Berlin, Berlin 10115, Germany

3 Institut für Chemie, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin 10623, Germany

4 Computational Genomics, Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec) Universität Bielefeld, Bielefeld D-33594, Germany

5 Institut für Biologie/Molekulare Parasitologie, Humboldt Universität Berlin, 10115 Berlin, Germany

6 ABiTEP GmbH, 12489 Berlin, Germany

7 Present address: Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:137  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-137

Published: 18 June 2013



Nine gene clusters dedicated to nonribosomal synthesis of secondary metabolites with possible antimicrobial action, including polymyxin and fusaricidin, were detected within the whole genome sequence of the plant growth-promoting rhizobacterium (PGPR) Paenibacillus polymyxa M-1. To survey the antimicrobial compounds expressed by M-1 we analyzed the active principle suppressing phytopathogenic Erwinia spp.


P. polymyxa M-1 suppressed the growth of phytopathogenic Erwinia amylovora Ea 273, and E. carotovora, the causative agents of fire blight and soft rot, respectively. By MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC), two antibacterial compounds bearing molecular masses of 1190.9 Da and 1176.9 Da were detected as being the two components of polymyxin P, polymyxin P1 and P2, respectively. The active principle acting against the two Erwinia strains was isolated from TLC plates and identified by postsource decay (PSD)-MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry as polymyxin P1 and polymyxin P2. These findings were corroborated by domain structure analysis of the polymyxin (pmx) gene cluster detected in the M-1 chromosome which revealed that corresponding to the chemical structure of polymyxin P, the gene cluster is encoding D-Phe in position 6 and L-Thr in position 7.


Identical morphological changes in the cell wall of the bacterial phytopathogens treated with either crude polymyxin P or culture supernatant of M-1 corroborated that polymyxin P is the main component of the biocontrol effect exerted by strain M-1 against phytopathogenic Erwinia spp.