skip to main content

Title: Selection pressure on the rhizosphere microbiome can alter nitrogen use efficiency and seed yield in Brassica rapa

Microbial experimental systems provide a platform to observe how networks of groups emerge to impact plant development. We applied selection pressure for microbiome enhancement ofBrassica rapabiomass to examine adaptive bacterial group dynamics under soil nitrogen limitation. In the 9th and final generation of the experiment, selection pressure enhancedB. rapaseed yield and nitrogen use efficiency compared to our control treatment, with no effect between the random selection and control treatments. Aboveground biomass increased for both the high biomass selection and random selection plants. Soil bacterial diversity declined under highB. rapabiomass selection, suggesting a possible ecological filtering mechanism to remove bacterial taxa. Distinct sub-groups of interactions emerged among bacterial phyla such asProteobacteriaandBacteroidetesin response to selection. Extended Local Similarity Analysis and NetShift indicated greater connectivity of the bacterial community, with more edges, shorter path lengths, and altered modularity through the course of selection for enhanced plant biomass. In contrast, bacterial communities under random selection and no selection showed less complex interaction profiles of bacterial taxa. These results suggest that group-level bacterial interactions could be modified to collectively shift microbiome functions impacting the growth of the host plant under soil nitrogen limitation.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Communications Biology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Objectives

    Environmental and ecological factors, such as geographic range, anthropogenic pressure, group identity, and feeding behavior are known to influence the gastrointestinal microbiomes of great apes. However, the influence of individual host traits such as age and sex, given specific dietary and social constraints, has been less studied. The objective of this investigation was to determine the associations between an individual's age and sex on the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome in wild western lowland gorillas.

    Materials and Methods

    Publicly available 16S rRNA data generated from fecal samples of different groups ofGorilla gorillagorillain the Central African Republic were downloaded and bioinformatically processed. The groups analyzed included habituated, partially habituated and unhabituated gorillas, sampled during low fruit (dry,n = 28) and high fruit (wet,n = 82) seasons. Microbial community analyses (alpha and beta diversity and analyses of discriminant taxa), in tandem with network‐wide approaches, were used to (a) mine for specific age and sex based differences in gut bacterial community composition and to (b) asses for gut community modularity and bacterial taxa with potential functional roles, in the context of seasonal food variation, and social group affiliation.


    Both age and sex significantly influenced gut microbiome diversity and composition in wild western lowland gorillas. However, the largest differences were observed between infants and adults in habituated groups and between adults and immature gorillas within all groups, and across dry and wet seasons. Specifically, although adults always showed greater bacterial richness than infants and immature gorillas, network‐wide analyses showed higher microbial community complexity and modularity in the infant gorilla gut. Sex‐based microbiome differences were not evident among adults, being only detected among immature gorillas.


    The results presented point to a dynamic gut microbiome inGorillaspp., associated with ontogeny and individual development. Of note, the gut microbiomes of breastfeeding infants seemed to reflect early exposure to complex, herbaceous vegetation. Whether increased compositional complexity of the infant gorilla gut microbiome is an adaptive response to an energy‐limited diet and an underdeveloped gut needs to be further tested. Overall, age and sex based gut microbiome differences, as shown here, maybe mainly attributed to access to specific feeding sources, and social interactions between individuals within groups.

    more » « less
  2. Campbell, Barbara J. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT In nutrient-limited conditions, plants rely on rhizosphere microbial members to facilitate nutrient acquisition, and in return, plants provide carbon resources to these root-associated microorganisms. However, atmospheric nutrient deposition can affect plant-microbe relationships by changing soil bacterial composition and by reducing cooperation between microbial taxa and plants. To examine how long-term nutrient addition shapes rhizosphere community composition, we compared traits associated with bacterial (fast-growing copiotrophs, slow-growing oligotrophs) and plant (C 3 forb, C 4 grass) communities residing in a nutrient-poor wetland ecosystem. Results revealed that oligotrophic taxa dominated soil bacterial communities and that fertilization increased the presence of oligotrophs in bulk and rhizosphere communities. Additionally, bacterial species diversity was greatest in fertilized soils, particularly in bulk soils. Nutrient enrichment (fertilized versus unfertilized) and plant association (bulk versus rhizosphere) determined bacterial community composition; bacterial community structure associated with plant functional group (grass versus forb) was similar within treatments but differed between fertilization treatments. The core forb microbiome consisted of 602 unique taxa, and the core grass microbiome consisted of 372 unique taxa. Forb rhizospheres were enriched in potentially disease-suppressive bacterial taxa, and grass rhizospheres were enriched in bacterial taxa associated with complex carbon decomposition. Results from this study demonstrate that fertilization serves as a strong environmental filter on the soil microbiome, which leads to distinct rhizosphere communities and can shift plant effects on the rhizosphere microbiome. These taxonomic shifts within plant rhizospheres could have implications for plant health and ecosystem functions associated with carbon and nitrogen cycling. IMPORTANCE Over the last century, humans have substantially altered nitrogen and phosphorus cycling. Use of synthetic fertilizer and burning of fossil fuels and biomass have increased nitrogen and phosphorus deposition, which results in unintended fertilization of historically low-nutrient ecosystems. With increased nutrient availability, plant biodiversity is expected to decline, and the abundance of copiotrophic taxa is anticipated to increase in bacterial communities. Here, we address how bacterial communities associated with different plant functional types (forb, grass) shift due to long-term nutrient enrichment. Unlike other studies, results revealed an increase in bacterial diversity, particularly of oligotrophic bacteria in fertilized plots. We observed that nutrient addition strongly determines forb and grass rhizosphere composition, which could indicate different metabolic preferences in the bacterial communities. This study highlights how long-term fertilization of oligotroph-dominated wetlands could alter diversity and metabolism of rhizosphere bacterial communities in unexpected ways. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition has enhanced soil carbon (C) stocks in temperate forests. Most research has posited that these soil C gains are driven primarily by shifts in fungal community composition with elevated N leading to declines in lignin degradingBasidiomycetes. Recent research, however, suggests that plants and soil microbes are dynamically intertwined, whereby plants send C subsidies to rhizosphere microbes to enhance enzyme production and the mobilization of N. Thus, under elevated N, trees may reduce belowground C allocation leading to cascading impacts on the ability of microbes to degrade soil organic matter through a shift in microbial species and/or a change in plant–microbe interactions. The objective of this study was to determine the extent to which couplings among plant, fungal, and bacterial responses to N fertilization alter the activity of enzymes that are the primary agents of soil decomposition. We measured fungal and bacterial community composition, root–microbial interactions, and extracellular enzyme activity in the rhizosphere, bulk, and organic horizon of soils sampled from a long‐term (>25 years), whole‐watershed, N fertilization experiment at the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia, USA. We observed significant declines in plant C investment to fine root biomass (24.7%), root morphology, and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) colonization (55.9%). Moreover, we found that declines in extracellular enzyme activity were significantly correlated with a shift in bacterial community composition, but not fungal community composition. This bacterial community shift was also correlated with reduced AM fungal colonization indicating that declines in plant investment belowground drive the response of bacterial community structure and function to N fertilization. Collectively, we find that enzyme activity responses to N fertilization are not solely driven by fungi, but instead reflect a whole ecosystem response, whereby declines in the strength of belowground C investment to gain N cascade through the soil environment.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Ectomycorrhizal (EM) associations can promote the dominance of tree species in otherwise diverse tropical forests. These EM associations between trees and their fungal mutualists have important consequences for soil organic matter cycling, yet the influence of these EM-associated effects on surrounding microbial communities is not well known, particularly in neotropical forests. We examined fungal and prokaryotic community composition in surface soil samples from mixed arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (EM) stands as well as stands dominated by EM-associatedOreomunnea mexicana(Juglandaceae) in four watersheds differing in soil fertility in the Fortuna Forest Reserve, Panama. We hypothesized that EM-dominated stands would support distinct microbial community assemblages relative to the mixed AM-EM stands due to differences in carbon and nitrogen cycling associated with the dominance of EM trees. We expected that this microbiome selection in EM-dominated stands would lead to lower overall microbial community diversity and turnover, with tighter correspondence between general fungal and prokaryotic communities. We measured fungal and prokaryotic community composition via high-throughput Illumina sequencing of theITS2(fungi) and16SrRNA (prokaryotic) gene regions. We analyzed differences in alpha and beta diversity between forest stands associated with different mycorrhizal types, as well as the relative abundance of fungal functional groups and various microbial taxa. We found that fungal and prokaryotic community composition differed based on stand mycorrhizal type. There was lower prokaryotic diversity and lower relative abundance of fungal saprotrophs and pathogens in EM-dominated than AM-EM mixed stands. However, contrary to our prediction, there was lower homogeneity for fungal communities in EM-dominated stands compared to mixed AM-EM stands. Overall, we demonstrate that EM-dominated tropical forest stands have distinct soil microbiomes relative to surrounding diverse forests, suggesting that EM fungi may filter microbial functional groups in ways that could potentially influence plant performance or ecosystem function.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract Background

    Root and soil microbial communities constitute the below-ground plant microbiome, are drivers of nutrient cycling, and affect plant productivity. However, our understanding of their spatiotemporal patterns is confounded by exogenous factors that covary spatially, such as changes in host plant species, climate, and edaphic factors. These spatiotemporal patterns likely differ across microbiome domains (bacteria and fungi) and niches (root vs. soil).


    To capture spatial patterns at a regional scale, we sampled the below-ground microbiome of switchgrass monocultures of five sites spanning > 3 degrees of latitude within the Great Lakes region. To capture temporal patterns, we sampled the below-ground microbiome across the growing season within a single site. We compared the strength of spatiotemporal factors to nitrogen addition determining the major drivers in our perennial cropping system. All microbial communities were most strongly structured by sampling site, though collection date also had strong effects; in contrast, nitrogen addition had little to no effect on communities. Though all microbial communities were found to have significant spatiotemporal patterns, sampling site and collection date better explained bacterial than fungal community structure, which appeared more defined by stochastic processes. Root communities, especially bacterial, were more temporally structured than soil communities which were more spatially structured, both across and within sampling sites. Finally, we characterized a core set of taxa in the switchgrass microbiome that persists across space and time. These core taxa represented < 6% of total species richness but > 27% of relative abundance, with potential nitrogen fixing bacteria and fungal mutualists dominating the root community and saprotrophs dominating the soil community.


    Our results highlight the dynamic variability of plant microbiome composition and assembly across space and time, even within a single variety of a plant species. Root and soil fungal community compositions appeared spatiotemporally paired, while root and soil bacterial communities showed a temporal lag in compositional similarity suggesting active recruitment of soil bacteria into the root niche throughout the growing season. A better understanding of the drivers of these differential responses to space and time may improve our ability to predict microbial community structure and function under novel conditions.

    more » « less