Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) Crown Galls Host Distinct Microbiota

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 Aug 30;82(18):5542-52. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01131-16. Print 2016 Sep 15.


Crown gall disease of grapevine is caused by virulent Agrobacterium strains and establishes a suitable habitat for agrobacteria and, potentially, other bacteria. The microbial community associated with grapevine plants has not been investigated with respect to this disease, which frequently results in monetary losses. This study compares the endophytic microbiota of organs from grapevine plants with or without crown gall disease and the surrounding vineyard soil over the growing seasons of 1 year. Amplicon-based community profiling revealed that the dominating factor causing differences between the grapevine microbiota is the sample site, not the crown gall disease. The soil showed the highest microbial diversity, which decreased with the distance from the soil over the root and the graft union of the trunk to the cane. Only the graft union microbiota was significantly affected by crown gall disease. The bacterial community of graft unions without a crown gall hosted transient microbiota, with the three most abundant bacterial species changing from season to season. In contrast, graft unions with a crown gall had a higher species richness, which in every season was dominated by the same three bacteria (Pseudomonas sp., Enterobacteriaceae sp., and Agrobacterium vitis). For in vitro-cultivated grapevine plantlets, A. vitis infection alone was sufficient to cause crown gall disease. Our data show that microbiota in crown galls is more stable over time than microbiota in healthy graft unions and that the microbial community is not essential for crown gall disease outbreak.

Importance: The characterization of bacterial populations in animal and human diseases using high-throughput deep-sequencing technologies, such as 16S amplicon sequencing, will ideally result in the identification of disease-specific microbiota. We analyzed the microbiota of the crown gall disease of grapevine, which is caused by infection with the bacterial pathogen Agrobacterium vitis. All other Agrobacterium species were found to be avirulent, even though they lived together with A. vitis in the same crown gall tumor. As has been reported for human cancer, the crown gall tumor also hosted opportunistic bacteria that are adapted to the tumor microenvironment. Characterization of the microbiota in various diseases using amplicon sequencing may help in early diagnosis, to serve as a preventative measure of disease in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Biota*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / chemistry
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Endophytes / classification
  • Endophytes / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology*
  • Plant Tumors / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Vitis / microbiology*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Grant support

This work was funded by the DFG Graduiertenkolleg (GK1342 “Progress in lipid signaling”; TPs A8 [U. Hentschel] and A5 [R. Deeken]) and by a development grant of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce 2012, Schweinfurt-Wuerzburg, Germany, to U. Hentschel and R. Deeken. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and interpretation, or decision to submit the work for publication.