Soil origin and plant genotype structure distinct microbiome compartments in the model legume Medicago truncatula


Background: Understanding the genetic and environmental factors that structure plant microbiomes is necessary for leveraging these interactions to address critical needs in agriculture, conservation, and sustainability. Legumes, which form root nodule symbioses with nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, have served as model plants for understanding the genetics and evolution of beneficial plant-microbe interactions for decades, and thus have added value as models of plant-microbiome interactions. Here we use a common garden experiment with 16S rRNA gene amplicon and shotgun metagenomic sequencing to study the drivers of microbiome diversity and composition in three genotypes of the model legume Medicago truncatula grown in two native soil communities. Results: Bacterial diversity decreased between external (rhizosphere) and internal plant compartments (root endosphere, nodule endosphere, and leaf endosphere). Community composition was shaped by strong compartment × soil origin and compartment × plant genotype interactions, driven by significant soil origin effects in the rhizosphere and significant plant genotype effects in the root endosphere. Nevertheless, all compartments were dominated by Ensifer, the genus of rhizobia that forms root nodule symbiosis with M. truncatula, and additional shotgun metagenomic sequencing suggests that the nodulating Ensifer were not genetically distinguishable from those elsewhere in the plant. We also identify a handful of OTUs that are common in nodule tissues, which are likely colonized from the root endosphere. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate strong host filtering effects, with rhizospheres driven by soil origin and internal plant compartments driven by host genetics, and identify several key nodule-inhabiting taxa that coexist with rhizobia in the native range. Our results set the stage for future functional genetic experiments aimed at expanding our pairwise understanding of legume-rhizobium symbiosis toward a more mechanistic understanding of plant microbiomes. [MediaObject not available: See fulltext.]

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