Bacterial communities associated with the leaves and the roots of Arabidopsis thaliana

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56329. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056329. Epub 2013 Feb 15.


Diverse communities of bacteria inhabit plant leaves and roots and those bacteria play a crucial role for plant health and growth. Arabidopsis thaliana is an important model to study plant pathogen interactions, but little is known about its associated bacterial community under natural conditions. We used 454 pyrosequencing to characterize the bacterial communities associated with the roots and the leaves of wild A. thaliana collected at 4 sites; we further compared communities on the outside of the plants with communities in the endophytic compartments. We found that the most heavily sequenced bacteria in A. thaliana associated community are related to culturable species. Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Bacteroidetes are the most abundant phyla in both leaf and root samples. At the genus level, sequences of Massilia and Flavobacterium are prevalent in both samples. Organ (leaf vs root) and habitat (epiphytes vs endophytes) structure the community. In the roots, richness is higher in the epiphytic communities compared to the endophytic compartment (P = 0.024), while the reverse is true for the leaves (P = 0.032). Interestingly, leaf and root endophytic compartments do not differ in richness, diversity and evenness, while they differ in community composition (P = 0.001). The results show that although the communities associated with leaves and roots share many bacterial species, the associated communities differ in structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Ecosystem
  • Endophytes / genetics
  • Endophytes / isolation & purification
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology*
  • Plant Roots / microbiology*
  • Sequence Analysis