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  1. Abstract Cuscuta campestris is an obligate parasitic plant that requires a host to complete its life cycle. Parasite–host connections occur via a haustorium, a unique organ that acts as a bridge for the uptake of water, nutrients, and macromolecules. Research on Cuscuta is often complicated by host influences, but comparable systems for growing the parasite in the absence of a host do not exist. We developed an axenic method to grow C. campestris on an artificial host system (AHS). We evaluated the effects of nutrients and phytohormones on parasite haustoria development and growth. Haustorium morphology and gene expression were also characterized. The AHS consists of an inert, fibrous stick that mimics a host stem, wicking water and nutrients to the parasite. It enables C. campestris to exhibit a parasitic habit and develop through all stages of its life cycle, including production of new shoots and viable seeds. The phytohormones 1-naphthaleneacetic acid and 6-benzylaminopurine affect haustoria morphology and increase parasite fresh weight and biomass. Unigene expression in AHS haustoria reflects processes similar to those in haustoria on living host plants. The AHS is a methodological improvement for studying Cuscuta biology by avoiding specific host effects on the parasite and giving researchers full control of the parasite environment. 
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  2. Plant microbiota play essential roles in plant health and crop productivity. Comparisons of community composition have suggested seed, soil, and the atmosphere as reservoirs of phyllosphere microbiota. After finding that leaves of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants exposed to rain carried a higher microbial population size than leaves of tomato plants not exposed to rain, we experimentally tested the hypothesis that rain is a thus-far-neglected reservoir of phyllosphere microbiota. Therefore, rain microbiota were compared with phyllosphere microbiota of tomato plants either treated with concentrated rain microbiota, filter-sterilized rain, or sterile water. Based on 16S ribosomal RNA amplicon sequencing, 104 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) significantly increased in relative abundance after inoculation with concentrated rain microbiota but no OTU significantly increased after treatment with either sterile water or filter-sterilized rain. Some of the genera to which these 104 OTUs belonged were also found at higher relative abundance on tomato plants exposed to rain outdoors than on tomato plants grown protected from rain in a commercial greenhouse. Taken together, these results point to precipitation as a reservoir of phyllosphere microbiota and show the potential of controlled experiments to investigate the role of different reservoirs in the assembly of phyllosphere microbiota. 
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