Prairie plants harbor distinct and beneficial root-endophytic bacterial communities

WashU affiliated authors: Boahemaa Adu-Oppong (Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology), Scott A. Mangan (Dept. of Biology and Tyson Research Center), Christopher P. Catano (Dept. of Biology and Tyson Research Center), Jonathan A. Myers (Dept. of Biology and Tyson Research Center), Gautam Dantas (The Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology)

Abstract: Plant-soil feedback studies attempt to understand the interplay between composition of plant and soil microbial communities. A growing body of literature suggests that plant species can coexist when they interact with a subset of the soil microbial community that impacts plant performance. Most studies focus on the microbial community in the soil rhizosphere; therefore, the degree to which the bacterial community within plant roots (root-endophytic compartment) influences plant-microbe interactions remains relatively unknown. To determine if there is an interaction between conspecific vs heterospecific soil microbes and plant performance, we sequenced root-endophytic bacterial communities of five tallgrass-prairie plant species, each reciprocally grown with soil microbes from each hosts’ soil rhizosphere. We found evidence of plant-soil feedbacks for some pairs of plant hosts; however, the strength and direction of feedbacks varied substantially across plant species pairs–from positive to negative feedbacks. Additionally, each plant species harbored a unique subset of root-endophytic bacteria. Conspecifics that hosted similar bacterial communities were more similar in biomass than individuals that hosted different bacterial communities, suggesting an important functional link between root-endophytic bacterial community composition and plant fitness. Our findings suggest a connection between an understudied component of the root-endophytic microbiome and plant performance, which may have important implications in understanding plant community composition and coexistence.

Citation: Boahemaa Adu-Oppong, Scott A. Mangan (Biology and Tyson Research Center), Claudia Stein, Christopher P. Catano, Jonathan A. Myers, and Gautam Dantas. “Prairie plants harbor distinct and beneficial root-endophytic bacterial communities.” PLoS One 15, no. 6 (2020): e0234537.