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Title: Gallionellaceae in rice root plaque: metabolic roles in iron oxidation, nutrient cycling, and plant interactions

On the roots of wetland plants such as rice, Fe(II) oxidation forms Fe(III) oxyhydroxide-rich plaques that modulate plant nutrient and metal uptake. The microbial roles in catalyzing this oxidation have been debated and it is unclear if these iron-oxidizers mediate other important biogeochemical and plant interactions. To investigate this, we studied the microbial communities, metagenomes, and geochemistry of iron plaque on field-grown rice, plus the surrounding rhizosphere and bulk soil. Plaque iron content (per mass root) increased over the growing season, showing continuous deposition. Analysis of 16S rRNA genes showed abundant Fe(II)-oxidizing and Fe(III)-reducing bacteria (FeOB and FeRB) in plaque, rhizosphere, and bulk soil. FeOB were enriched in relative abundance in plaque, suggesting FeOB affinity for the root surface. Gallionellaceae FeOBSideroxydanswere enriched during vegetative and early reproductive rice growth stages, while aGallionellawas enriched during reproduction through grain maturity, suggesting distinct FeOB niches over the rice life cycle. FeRBAnaeromyxobacterandGeobacterincreased in plaque later, during reproduction and grain ripening, corresponding to increased plaque iron. Metagenome-assembled genomes revealed that Gallionellaceae may grow mixotrophically using both Fe(II) and organics. TheSideroxydansare facultative, able to use non-Fe substrates, which may allow colonization of rice roots early in the season. FeOB genomes suggest adaptations for interacting with plants, including colonization, plant immunity defense, utilization of plant organics, and nitrogen fixation. Taken together, our results strongly suggest that rhizoplane and rhizosphere FeOB can specifically associate with rice roots, catalyzing iron plaque formation, with the potential to contribute to plant growth.


In waterlogged soils, iron plaque forms a reactive barrier between the root and soil, collecting phosphate and metals such as arsenic and cadmium. It is well established that iron-reducing bacteria solubilize iron, releasing these associated elements. In contrast, microbial roles in plaque formation have not been clear. Here, we show that there is a substantial population of iron oxidizers in plaque, and furthermore, that these organisms (SideroxydansandGallionella) are distinguished by genes for plant colonization and nutrient fixation. Our results suggest that iron-oxidizing and iron-reducing bacteria form and remodel iron plaque, making it a dynamic system that represents both a temporary sink for elements (P, As, Cd, C, etc.) as well as a source. In contrast to abiotic iron oxidation, microbial iron oxidation results in coupled Fe-C-N cycling, as well as microbe-microbe and microbe-plant ecological interactions that need to be considered in soil biogeochemistry, ecosystem dynamics, and crop management.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Glass, Jennifer B.
Publisher / Repository:
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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