New insights into the structure and function of phyllosphere microbiota through high-throughput molecular approaches

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2013 Nov;348(1):1-10. doi: 10.1111/1574-6968.12225. Epub 2013 Aug 13.


The phyllosphere is an ecologically and economically important ecosystem that hosts a large and diverse microbial community. Phyllosphere microbiota play a critical role in protecting plants from diseases as well as promoting their growth by various mechanisms. There are serious gaps in our understanding of how and why microbiota composition varies across spatial and temporal scales, the ecology of leaf surface colonizers and their interactions with their host, and the genetic adaptations that enable phyllosphere survival of microorganisms. These gaps are due in large part to past technical limitations, as earlier studies were restricted to the study of culturable bacteria only and used low-throughput molecular techniques to describe community structure and function. The availability of high-throughput and cost-effective molecular technologies is changing the field of phyllosphere microbiology, enabling researchers to begin to address the dynamics and composition of the phyllosphere microbiota across a large number of samples with high, in-depth coverage. Here, we discuss and connect the most recent studies that have used next-generation molecular techniques such as metagenomics, proteogenomics, genome sequencing, and transcriptomics to gain new insights into the structure and function of phyllosphere microbiota and highlight important challenges for future research.

Keywords: metagenomics; next-generation sequencing; phyllosphere; proteogenomics; pyrosequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing*
  • Microbiological Techniques*
  • Microbiota*
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology*