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Title: Manipulation of the seagrass‐associated microbiome reduces disease severity

Host‐associated microbes influence host health and function and can be a first line of defence against infections. While research increasingly shows that terrestrial plant microbiomes contribute to bacterial, fungal, and oomycete disease resistance, no comparable experimental work has investigated marine plant microbiomes or more diverse disease agents. We test the hypothesis that the eelgrass (Zostera marina) leaf microbiome increases resistance to seagrass wasting disease. From field eelgrass with paired diseased and asymptomatic tissue,16S rRNAgene amplicon sequencing revealed that bacterial composition and richness varied markedly between diseased and asymptomatic tissue in one of the two years. This suggests that the influence of disease on eelgrass microbial communities may vary with environmental conditions. We next experimentally reduced the eelgrass microbiome with antibiotics and bleach, then inoculated plants withLabyrinthula zosterae, the causative agent of wasting disease. We detected significantly higher disease severity in eelgrass with a native microbiome than an experimentally reduced microbiome. Our results over multiple experiments do not support a protective role of the eelgrass microbiome againstL. zosterae. Further studies of these marine host–microbe–pathogen relationships may continue to show new relationships between plant microbiomes and diseases.

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Journal Name:
Environmental Microbiology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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