April 21, 2020  |  

Agricultural intensification reduces microbial network complexity and the abundance of keystone taxa in roots.

Root-associated microbes play a key role in plant performance and productivity, making them important players in agroecosystems. So far, very few studies have assessed the impact of different farming systems on the root microbiota and it is still unclear whether agricultural intensification influences the structure and complexity of microbial communities. We investigated the impact of conventional, no-till, and organic farming on wheat root fungal communities using PacBio SMRT sequencing on samples collected from 60 farmlands in Switzerland. Organic farming harbored a much more complex fungal network with significantly higher connectivity than conventional and no-till farming systems. The abundance of keystone taxa was the highest under organic farming where agricultural intensification was the lowest. We also found a strong negative association (R2?=?0.366; P?

April 21, 2020  |  

Global-level population genomics reveals differential effects of geography and phylogeny on horizontal gene transfer in soil bacteria.

Although microorganisms are known to dominate Earth’s biospheres and drive biogeochemical cycling, little is known about the geographic distributions of microbial populations or the environmental factors that pattern those distributions. We used a global-level hierarchical sampling scheme to comprehensively characterize the evolutionary relationships and distributional limitations of the nitrogen-fixing bacterial symbionts of the crop chickpea, generating 1,027 draft whole-genome sequences at the level of bacterial populations, including 14 high-quality PacBio genomes from a phylogenetically representative subset. We find that diverse Mesorhizobium taxa perform symbiosis with chickpea and have largely overlapping global distributions. However, sampled locations cluster based on the phylogenetic diversity of Mesorhizobium populations, and diversity clusters correspond to edaphic and environmental factors, primarily soil type and latitude. Despite long-standing evolutionary divergence and geographic isolation, the diverse taxa observed to nodulate chickpea share a set of integrative conjugative elements (ICEs) that encode the major functions of the symbiosis. This symbiosis ICE takes 2 forms in the bacterial chromosome-tripartite and monopartite-with tripartite ICEs confined to a broadly distributed superspecies clade. The pairwise evolutionary relatedness of these elements is controlled as much by geographic distance as by the evolutionary relatedness of the background genome. In contrast, diversity in the broader gene content of Mesorhizobium genomes follows a tight linear relationship with core genome phylogenetic distance, with little detectable effect of geography. These results illustrate how geography and demography can operate differentially on the evolution of bacterial genomes and offer useful insights for the development of improved technologies for sustainable agriculture.

April 21, 2020  |  

Petunia-and Arabidopsis-Specific Root Microbiota Responses to Phosphate Supplementation

Phosphorus (P) is a limiting element for plant growth. Several root microbes, including arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), have the capacity to improve plant nutrition and their abundance is known to depend on P fertility. However, how complex root-associated bacterial and fungal communities respond to various levels of P supplementation remains ill-defined. Here we investigated the responses of the root-associated bacteria and fungi to varying levels of P supply using 16S rRNA gene and internal transcribed spacer amplicon sequencing. We grew Petunia, which forms symbiosis with AMF, and the nonmycorrhizal model species Arabidopsis as a control in a soil that is limiting in plant-available P and we then supplemented the plants with complete fertilizer solutions that varied only in their phosphate concentrations. We searched for microbes, whose abundances varied by P fertilization, tested whether a core microbiota responding to the P treatments could be identified and asked whether bacterial and fungal co-occurrence patterns change in response to the varying P levels. Root microbiota composition varied substantially in response to the varying P application. A core microbiota was not identified as different bacterial and fungal groups responded to low-P conditions in Arabidopsis and Petunia. Microbes with P-dependent abundance patterns included Mortierellomycotina in Arabidopsis, while in Petunia, they included AMF and their symbiotic endobacteria. Of note, the P-dependent root colonization by AMF was reliably quantified by sequencing. The fact that the root microbiotas of the two plant species responded differently to low-P conditions suggests that plant species specificity would need to be considered for the eventual development of microbial products that improve plant P nutrition.

April 21, 2020  |  

Uncovering the biosynthetic potential of rare metagenomic DNA using co-occurrence network analysis of targeted sequences.

Sequencing of DNA extracted from environmental samples can provide key insights into the biosynthetic potential of uncultured bacteria. However, the high complexity of soil metagenomes, which can contain thousands of bacterial species per gram of soil, imposes significant challenges to explore secondary metabolites potentially produced by rare members of the soil microbiome. Here, we develop a targeted sequencing workflow termed CONKAT-seq (co-occurrence network analysis of targeted sequences) that detects physically clustered biosynthetic domains, a hallmark of bacterial secondary metabolism. Following targeted amplification of conserved biosynthetic domains in a highly partitioned metagenomic library, CONKAT-seq evaluates amplicon co-occurrence patterns across library subpools to identify chromosomally clustered domains. We show that a single soil sample can contain more than a thousand uncharacterized biosynthetic gene clusters, most of which originate from low frequency genomes which are practically inaccessible through untargeted sequencing. CONKAT-seq allows scalable exploration of largely untapped biosynthetic diversity across multiple soils, and can guide the discovery of novel secondary metabolites from rare members of the soil microbiome.

September 22, 2019  |  

Lack of thinning effects over inter-annual changes in soil fungal community and diversity in a Mediterranean pine forest

Predicted changes in global climate might negatively affect the soil microbiome and associated ecosystem processes in Mediterranean forests. Forest treatments, such as forest thinning, have been suggested to mitigate climate change impacts on vegetation by reducing competition between trees, thus increasing water availability. Studies addressing the combined effects of climate and forest thinning on belowground fungal communities are still scarce, being fundamental to elaborate adaptive strategies to global warming. The aim of this study was to evaluate the tree density reduction effects on soil fungal communities and their response to inter-annual changes in weather conditions. The temporal dynamics of soil fungal communities in relation to these two drivers (i.e., forest management and weather conditions) were studied from 2009 until 2014 in a set of 12 pairs of thinned and un-thinned plots dominated by Pinus pinaster Ait. Thinning (from 30% up to 70% reduction in stand basal area) was conducted in 2009 and soil fungal community composition was studied during 4?years. Here, we used autumn precipitation and temperature to describe the impact of inter-annual weather changes. We used Pacific Biosciences sequencing of fungal ITS2 amplicons to study fungal communities in soil samples. Forest thinning did not significantly affect fungal community composition nor fungal species richness and diversity, indicating that the soil fungal community is resistant to forest thinning regardless of its intensity. However, fungal species composition changed progressively across years, both at the species level and with regards to functional guilds. These changes in community composition were partly driven by inter-annual variation in precipitation and temperature, with free-living fungi increasing in abundance under wetter conditions, and symbiotic fungi being more prominent under drier and colder conditions. The results indicate that mycorrhizal communities in Mediterranean forest ecosystems can resist forest thinning, if enough trees and functional roots from thinned trees are retained.

September 22, 2019  |  

A community-based culture collection for targeting novel plant growth-promoting bacteria from the sugarcane microbiome.

The soil-plant ecosystem harbors an immense microbial diversity that challenges investigative approaches to study traits underlying plant-microbe association. Studies solely based on culture-dependent techniques have overlooked most microbial diversity. Here we describe the concomitant use of culture-dependent and -independent techniques to target plant-beneficial microbial groups from the sugarcane microbiome. The community-based culture collection (CBC) approach was used to access microbes from roots and stalks. The CBC recovered 399 unique bacteria representing 15.9% of the rhizosphere core microbiome and 61.6-65.3% of the endophytic core microbiomes of stalks. By cross-referencing the CBC (culture-dependent) with the sugarcane microbiome profile (culture-independent), we designed a synthetic community comprised of naturally occurring highly abundant bacterial groups from roots and stalks, most of which has been poorly explored so far. We then used maize as a model to probe the abundance-based synthetic inoculant. We show that when inoculated in maize plants, members of the synthetic community efficiently colonize plant organs, displace the natural microbiota and dominate at 53.9% of the rhizosphere microbial abundance. As a result, inoculated plants increased biomass by 3.4-fold as compared to uninoculated plants. The results demonstrate that abundance-based synthetic inoculants can be successfully applied to recover beneficial plant microbes from plant microbiota.

September 22, 2019  |  

Soil microclimate changes affect soil fungal communities in a Mediterranean pine forest.

Soil microclimate is a potentially important regulator of the composition of plant-associated fungal communities in climates with significant drought periods. Here, we investigated the spatio-temporal dynamics of soil fungal communities in a Mediterranean Pinus pinaster forest in relation to soil moisture and temperature. Fungal communities in 336 soil samples collected monthly over 1 year from 28 long-term experimental plots were assessed by PacBio sequencing of ITS2 amplicons. Total fungal biomass was estimated by analysing ergosterol. Community changes were analysed in the context of functional traits. Soil fungal biomass was lowest during summer and late winter and highest during autumn, concurrent with a greater relative abundance of mycorrhizal species. Intra-annual spatio-temporal changes in community composition correlated significantly with soil moisture and temperature. Mycorrhizal fungi were less affected by summer drought than free-living fungi. In particular, mycorrhizal species of the short-distance exploration type increased in relative abundance under dry conditions, whereas species of the long-distance exploration type were more abundant under wetter conditions. Our observations demonstrate a potential for compositional and functional shifts in fungal communities in response to changing climatic conditions. Free-living fungi and mycorrhizal species with extensive mycelia may be negatively affected by increasing drought periods in Mediterranean forest ecosystems.© 2018 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2018 New Phytologist Trust.

September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genomic analyses reveal the features for adaptation to nematodes in fungi.

Nematophagous (NP) fungi are ecologically important components of the soil microbiome in natural ecosystems. Esteya vermicola (Ev) has been reported as a NP fungus with a poorly understood evolutionary history and mechanism of adaptation to parasitism. Furthermore, NP fungal genomic basis of lifestyle was still unclear. We sequenced and annotated the Ev genome (34.2 Mbp) and integrated genetic makeup and evolution of pathogenic genes to investigate NP fungi. The results revealed that NP fungi had some abundant pathogenic genes corresponding to their niche. A number of gene families involved in pathogenicity were expanded, and some pathogenic orthologous genes underwent positive selection. NP fungi with diverse morphological features exhibit similarities of evolutionary convergence in attacking nematodes, but their genetic makeup and microscopic mechanism are different. Endoparasitic NP fungi showed similarity in large number of transporters and secondary metabolite coding genes. Noteworthy, expanded families of transporters and endo-beta-glucanase implied great genetic potential of Ev in quickly perturbing nematode metabolism and parasitic behavior. These results facilitate our understanding of NP fungal genomic features for adaptation to nematodes and lay a solid theoretical foundation for further research and application.© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Kazusa DNA Research Institute.

September 22, 2019  |  

Orphan legumes growing in dry environments: Marama bean as a case study.

Plants have developed morphological, physiological, biochemical, cellular, and molecular mechanisms to survive in drought-stricken environments with little or no water caused by below-average precipitation. In this mini-review, we highlight the characteristics that allows marama bean [Tylosema esculentum (Burchell) Schreiber], an example of an orphan legume native to arid regions of southwestern Southern Africa, to flourish under an inhospitable climate and dry soil conditions where no other agricultural crop competes in this agro-ecological zone. Orphan legumes are often better suited to withstand such harsh growth environments due to development of survival strategies using a combination of different traits and responses. Recent findings on questions on marama bean speciation, hybridization, population dynamics, and the evolutionary history of the bean and mechanisms by which the bean is able to extract and conserve water and nutrients from its environment as well as aspects of morphological and physiological adaptation will be reviewed. The importance of the soil microbiome and the genetic diversity in this species, and their interplay, as a reservoir for improvement will also be considered. In particular, the application of the newly established marama bean genome sequence will facilitate both the identification of important genes involved in the interaction with the soil microbiome and the identification of the diversity within the wild germplasm for genes involved drought tolerance. Since predicted future changes in climatic conditions, with less water availability for plant growth, will severely affect agricultural productivity, an understanding of the mechanisms of unique adaptations in marama bean to such conditions may also provide insights as to how to improve the performance of the major crops.

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