Comparison of nodule endophyte composition, diversity, and gene content between Medicago truncatula genotypes
Leguminous plants form symbiotic relationships with rhizobia. These nitrogen-fixing bacteria live in specialized root organs called nodules. While rhizobia form the most notable host relationship within root nodules, other bacterial endophytes also inhabit these root nodules and can influence host-rhizobia interactions as well as exert effects of their own, whether beneficial or detrimental. In this study, we investigate differences in nodule communities between genotypes (A17 and R108) of a single plant species, the model legume Medicago truncatula. While diversity of endophytes in nodules was similar across hosts, both nodule endophyte composition and gene functional groups differed. In contrast to the significant direct effect of host genotype, neither the presence nor identity of a host in the previous generation (either A17 or R108) had a significant effect on the nodule endophyte diversity or composition. However, whether or not a host was present altered gene functional groups. We conclude that genetic variation within a legume host species can play an important role in the establishment of nodule microbiomes. Further studies, including GWAS and functional assays, can open the door for engineering and optimizing nodule endophyte communities that promote growth or have other beneficial qualities.