Quantitative divergence of the bacterial root microbiota in Arabidopsis thaliana relatives

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 14;111(2):585-92. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1321597111. Epub 2013 Dec 30.


Plants host at the contact zone with soil a distinctive root-associated bacterial microbiota believed to function in plant nutrition and health. We investigated the diversity of the root microbiota within a phylogenetic framework of hosts: three Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes along with its sister species Arabidopsis halleri and Arabidopsis lyrata, as well as Cardamine hirsuta, which diverged from the former ∼ 35 Mya. We surveyed their microbiota under controlled environmental conditions and of A. thaliana and C. hirsuta in two natural habitats. Deep 16S rRNA gene profiling of root and corresponding soil samples identified a total of 237 quantifiable bacterial ribotypes, of which an average of 73 community members were enriched in roots. The composition of this root microbiota depends more on interactions with the environment than with host species. Interhost species microbiota diversity is largely quantitative and is greater between the three Arabidopsis species than the three A. thaliana ecotypes. Host species-specific microbiota were identified at the levels of individual community members, taxonomic groups, and whole root communities. Most of these signatures were observed in the phylogenetically distant C. hirsuta. However, the branching order of host phylogeny is incongruent with interspecies root microbiota diversity, indicating that host phylogenetic distance alone cannot explain root microbiota diversification. Our work reveals within 35 My of host divergence a largely conserved and taxonomically narrow root microbiota, which comprises stable community members belonging to the Actinomycetales, Burkholderiales, and Flavobacteriales.

Keywords: 16S amplicon ribotyping; Brassicaceae species; bacterial communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales / genetics
  • Bacteroidetes / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Betaproteobacteria / genetics
  • Brassicaceae / microbiology*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Germany
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Microbiota / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Roots / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S