Meet Latilactobacillus fragifolii, a novel species with unique properties to survive on plants and in stressful conditions! L. fragifolii is a member of the Lactobacillaceae family, a group of bacteria known for their safety and beneficial effects. Its most striking properties are the ability to produce carotenoids and ferment plant-specific sugars, making it the ideal candidate to use in crop production, as a biocontrol agent or biostimulant, or in the food or cosmetic industry.
Pathogens and pests cause major crop losses and we currently depend heavily on chemical products to safeguard food production. However, such products often pose a threat to human health and the environment. A promising sustainable alternative is the use of beneficial microbes such as lactobacilli to protect our crops. Lactobacilli are generally safe and beneficial microbes that are found in carbohydrate-rich environments, such as fermented foods and on the mucosal surfaces of humans and animals. They are only sporadically detected on plants and were therefore considered as not well adapted to this stressful environment, so that their applications in agriculture were not yet explored.
We isolated a novel Lactobacillaceae species, Latilactobacillus fragifolii, and discovered it has unique properties that enhance its survival in oxygen-rich, UV-stressed and nutrient-poor environments, such as the leaves of a plant. These qualities are (i) the production of carotenoids acting as antioxidants that protect cells against UV and oxidative stress, (ii) the production of catalase, an enzyme that protects against oxidative stress and (iii) the utilization of plant-specific carbohydrates such as arabinose and sucrose. As a result, we observed that this bacterium can survive on the leaves of different plant species and protect tomato seedlings against disease. There is a patent pending on this technology (WO2022195075A1).
Partners we search for:
We are looking for partners active in crop protection and crop production that are interested in developing innovative biostimulants or biocontrol agents containing these bacteria.
Besides its potential as a biostimulant or biocontrol agent, carotenoid-producing bacteria such as L. fragifolii are also of interest for applications in cosmetics and food production. Hence we also welcome partnerships in those areas.
About the researchers
The main expertise of the lab of prof. Sarah Lebeer is centered around the use of beneficial bacteria with a particular interest in lactobacilli (Lactobacillaceae). We study their probiotic characteristics, their occurrence in different environments, and their beneficial potential for human, animal, plant and food. Our lab has been involved in multiple public-private partnerships to develop beneficial microbes into applications in various niches, such as cosmetics and food fermentations.