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  1. Angert, Esther (Ed.)
    Abstract Methylobacterium is a group of methylotrophic microbes associated with soil, fresh water, and particularly the phyllosphere, the aerial part of plants that has been well studied in terms of physiology but whose evolutionary history and taxonomy are unclear. Recent work has suggested that Methylobacterium is much more diverse than thought previously, questioning its status as an ecologically and phylogenetically coherent taxonomic genus. However, taxonomic and evolutionary studies of Methylobacterium have mostly been restricted to model species, often isolated from habitats other than the phyllosphere and have yet to utilize comprehensive phylogenomic methods to examine gene trees, gene content, or synteny. By analyzing 189 Methylobacterium genomes from a wide range of habitats, including the phyllosphere, we inferred a robust phylogenetic tree while explicitly accounting for the impact of horizontal gene transfer (HGT). We showed that Methylobacterium contains four evolutionarily distinct groups of bacteria (namely A, B, C, D), characterized by different genome size, GC content, gene content, and genome architecture, revealing the dynamic nature of Methylobacterium genomes. In addition to recovering 59 described species, we identified 45 candidate species, mostly phyllosphere-associated, stressing the significance of plants as a reservoir of Methylobacterium diversity. We inferred an ancient transition from a free-livingmore »lifestyle to association with plant roots in Methylobacteriaceae ancestor, followed by phyllosphere association of three of the major groups (A, B, D), whose early branching in Methylobacterium history has been heavily obscured by HGT. Together, our work lays the foundations for a thorough redefinition of Methylobacterium taxonomy, beginning with the abandonment of Methylorubrum.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  2. Keim, Paul (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Methylobacterium is a prevalent bacterial genus of the phyllosphere. Despite its ubiquity, little is known about the extent to which its diversity reflects neutral processes like migration and drift, versus environmental filtering of life history strategies and adaptations. In two temperate forests, we investigated how phylogenetic diversity within Methylobacterium is structured by biogeography, seasonality, and growth strategies. Using deep, culture-independent barcoded marker gene sequencing coupled with culture-based approaches, we uncovered a considerable diversity of Methylobacterium in the phyllosphere. We cultured different subsets of Methylobacterium lineages depending upon the temperature of isolation and growth (20°C or 30°C), suggesting long-term adaptation to temperature. To a lesser extent than temperature adaptation, Methylobacterium diversity was also structured across large (>100 km; between forests) and small (<1.2 km; within forests) geographical scales, among host tree species, and was dynamic over seasons. By measuring the growth of 79 isolates during different temperature treatments, we observed contrasting growth performances, with strong lineage- and season-dependent variations in growth strategies. Finally, we documented a progressive replacement of lineages with a high-yield growth strategy typical of cooperative, structured communities in favor of those characterized by rapid growth, resulting in convergence and homogenization of community structure at the end ofmore »the growing season. Together, our results show how Methylobacterium is phylogenetically structured into lineages with distinct growth strategies, which helps explain their differential abundance across regions, host tree species, and time. This work paves the way for further investigation of adaptive strategies and traits within a ubiquitous phyllosphere genus. IMPORTANCE Methylobacterium is a bacterial group tied to plants. Despite the ubiquity of methylobacteria and the importance to their hosts, little is known about the processes driving Methylobacterium community dynamics. By combining traditional culture-dependent and -independent (metabarcoding) approaches, we monitored Methylobacterium diversity in two temperate forests over a growing season. On the surface of tree leaves, we discovered remarkably diverse and dynamic Methylobacterium communities over short temporal (from June to October) and spatial (within 1.2 km) scales. Because we cultured different subsets of Methylobacterium diversity depending on the temperature of incubation, we suspected that these dynamics partly reflected climatic adaptation. By culturing strains under laboratory conditions mimicking seasonal variations, we found that diversity and environmental variations were indeed good predictors of Methylobacterium growth performances. Our findings suggest that Methylobacterium community dynamics at the surface of tree leaves results from the succession of strains with contrasting growth strategies in response to environmental variations.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 22, 2023
  3. In this paper we settle a special case of the Grassmann convexity conjecture formulated by the second and the third authors about a decade ago. We present a conjectural formula for the maximal total number of real zeros of the consecutive Wronskians of an arbitrary fundamental solution to a disconjugate linear ordinary differential equation with real time. We show that this formula gives the lower bound for the required total number of real zeros for equations of an arbitrary order and, using our results on the Grassmann convexity, we prove that the aforementioned formula is correct for equations of orders 4 and 5.