January 23, 2018

Abiotic Stresses Shift Belowground Populus-Associated Bacteria Toward a Core Stress Microbiome

mSystems, 3:e00070-17. https://doi.org/10.1128/ mSystems.00070-17.
DOI: 10.1128/mSystems.00070-17

Abiotic Stresses Shift Belowground Populus-Associated Bacteria Toward a Core Stress Microbiome

Collin M. Timm, Kelsey R. Carter, Alyssa A. Carrell, Se-Ran Jun, Sara S. Jawdy, Jessica M. Vélez, Lee E. Gunter, Zamin Yang, Intawat Nookaew, Nancy L. Engle, Tse-Yuan S. Lu, Christopher W. Schadt, Timothy J. Tschaplinski, Mitchel J. Doktycz, Gerald A. Tuskan, Dale A. Pelletier, David J. Weston


Adverse growth conditions can lead to decreased plant growth, productivity, and survival, resulting in poor yields or failure of crops and biofeedstocks. In some cases, the microbial community associated with plants has been shown to alleviate plant stress and increase plant growth under suboptimal growing conditions. A systematic understanding of how the microbial community changes under these conditions is required to understand the contribution of the microbiome to water utilization, nutrient uptake, and ultimately yield. Using a microbiome inoculation strategy, we studied how the belowground microbiome of Populus deltoides changes in response to diverse environmental conditions, including water limitation, light limitation (shading), and metal toxicity. While plant responses to treatments in terms of growth, photosynthesis, gene expression and metabolite profiles were varied, we identified a core set of bacterial genera that change in abundance in response to host stress. The results of this study indicate substantial structure in the plant microbiome community and identify potential drivers of the phytobiome response to stress.

IMPORTANCE: The identification of a common “stress microbiome” indicates tightly controlled relationships between the plant host and bacterial associates and a conserved structure in bacterial communities associated with poplar trees under different growth conditions. The ability of the microbiome to buffer the plant from extreme environmental conditions coupled with the conserved stress microbiome observed in this study suggests an opportunity for future efforts aimed at predictably modulating the microbiome to optimize plant growth.