Bacterial communities associated with surfaces of leafy greens: shift in composition and decrease in richness over time

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015 Feb;81(4):1530-9. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03470-14. Epub 2014 Dec 19.


The phyllosphere is colonized by a wide variety of bacteria and fungi; it harbors epiphytes, as well as plant-pathogenic bacteria and even human pathogens. However, little is known about how the bacterial community composition on leafy greens develops over time. The bacterial community of the leafy-green phyllosphere obtained from two plantings of rocket salad (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) and three plantings of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) at two farms in Norway were profiled by an Illumina MiSeq-based approach. We found that the bacterial richness of the L. sativa samples was significantly greater shortly (3 weeks) after planting than at harvest (5 to 7 weeks after planting) for plantings 1 and 3 at both farms. For the second planting, the bacterial diversity remained consistent at the two sites. This suggests that the effect on bacterial colonization of leaves, at least in part must, be seasonally driven rather than driven solely by leaf maturity. The distribution of phyllosphere communities varied between D. tenuifolia and L. sativa at harvest. The variability between these species at the same location suggests that the leaf-dwelling bacteria are not only passive inhabitants but interact with the host, which shapes niches favoring the growth of particular taxa. This work contributes to our understanding of host plant-specific microbial community structures and shows how these communities change throughout plant development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Biodiversity*
  • Brassicaceae / growth & development
  • Brassicaceae / microbiology*
  • Lettuce / growth & development
  • Lettuce / microbiology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology*
  • Seasons