Soil nitrogen availability and plant genotype modify the nutrition strategies of M. truncatula and the associated rhizosphere microbial communities

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47096. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047096. Epub 2012 Oct 15.


Plant and soil types are usually considered as the two main drivers of the rhizosphere microbial communities. The aim of this work was to study the effect of both N availability and plant genotype on the plant associated rhizosphere microbial communities, in relation to the nutritional strategies of the plant-microbe interactions, for six contrasted Medicago truncatula genotypes. The plants were provided with two different nutrient solutions varying in their nitrate concentrations (0 mM and 10 mM). First, the influence of both nitrogen availability and Medicago truncatula genotype on the genetic structure of the soil bacterial and fungal communities was determined by DNA fingerprint using Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA). Secondly, the different nutritional strategies of the plant-microbe interactions were evaluated using an ecophysiological framework. We observed that nitrogen availability affected rhizosphere bacterial communities only in presence of the plant. Furthermore, we showed that the influence of nitrogen availability on rhizosphere bacterial communities was dependent on the different genotypes of Medicago truncatula. Finally, the nutritional strategies of the plant varied greatly in response to a modification of nitrogen availability. A new conceptual framework was thus developed to study plant-microbe interactions. This framework led to the identification of three contrasted structural and functional adaptive responses of plant-microbe interactions to nitrogen availability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Plant / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Medicago truncatula / genetics*
  • Medicago truncatula / microbiology*
  • Nitrogen / analysis*
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Rhizosphere*
  • Soil / chemistry*


  • DNA, Plant
  • Soil
  • Nitrogen

Grant support

This work was supported by INRA and the Regional Council of Burgundy (France), through a PhD grant to A. Zancarini (project n°089201PPO24S00901). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.