High Diversity Revealed in Leaf-Associated Protists (Rhizaria: Cercozoa) of Brassicaceae

J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2016 Sep;63(5):635-41. doi: 10.1111/jeu.12314. Epub 2016 Apr 14.


The largest biological surface on earth is formed by plant leaves. These leaf surfaces are colonized by a specialized suite of leaf-inhabiting microorganisms, recently termed "phyllosphere microbiome". Microbial prey, however, attract microbial predators. Protists in particular have been shown to structure bacterial communities on plant surfaces, but virtually nothing is known about the community composition of protists on leaves. Using newly designed specific primers targeting the 18S rDNA gene of Cercozoa, we investigated the species richness of this common protist group on leaves of four Brassicaceae species from two different locations in a cloning-based approach. The generated sequences revealed a broad diversity of leaf-associated Cercozoa, mostly bacterial feeders, but also including known plant pathogens and a taxon of potential endophytes that were recently described as algal predators in freshwater systems. This initial study shows that protists must be regarded as an integral part of the microbial diversity in the phyllosphere of plants.

Keywords: 18S; Arabidopsis; Cercomonas; cloning; environmental sequencing; phyllosphere; protist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria
  • Base Sequence
  • Biodiversity*
  • Brassicaceae / classification
  • Brassicaceae / microbiology
  • Brassicaceae / parasitology*
  • Cercozoa / classification*
  • Cercozoa / genetics*
  • Cercozoa / isolation & purification
  • Cercozoa / pathogenicity
  • Classification
  • DNA, Protozoan
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Eukaryota / classification
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fresh Water / parasitology
  • Germany
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology
  • Plant Leaves / parasitology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics
  • Rhizaria / classification*
  • Rhizaria / genetics*
  • Rhizaria / isolation & purification


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S