Background: Roots are the primary site for plant-microbe interactions. Among the three root-associated layers (i.e., rhizosphere, rhizoplane, and endorhiza), the rhizoplane is a key component serving a critical gating role that controls microbial entry into plant roots. The microbial communities colonizing the three layers are believed to be gradually enriched from the bulk soil inoculum. However, it is unknown how this enrichment process, particularly the rhizosphere to rhizoplane step, is affected by biotic stresses, such as disease. In this study, we address this question using the citrus root-associated microbiome as a model.
Results: We identified the rhizosphere-to-rhizoplane-enriched taxonomic and functional properties of the citrus root-associated microbiome and determined how they were affected by Huanglongbing (HLB), a severe systemic disease caused by Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, using metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches. Multiple rhizoplane-enriched genera were identified, with Bradyrhizobium and Burkholderia being the most dominant. Plant-derived carbon sources are an important driving force for the enrichment process. The enrichment of functional attributes, such as motility, chemotaxis, secretion systems, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) synthesis, demonstrated more active microbe-plant interactions on the rhizoplane than the rhizosphere. We observed that HLB impaired the rhizosphere-to-rhizoplane enrichment process of the citrus root-associated microbiome in three ways: (1) by decreasing the relative abundance of most rhizoplane-enriched genera; (2) by reducing the relative abundance and/or expression activity of the functional attributes involved in microbe-plant interactions; and (3) by recruiting more functional features involved in autotrophic life cycle adaptation, such as carbon fixation and nitrogen nitrification in the HLB rhizoplane microbiome. Finally, our data showed that inoculation of Burkholderia strains isolated from the healthy citrus root-associated microbiome could trigger the expression of genes involved in induced systemic resistance in inoculated plants.
Conclusions: HLB causes decreased relative abundance and/or expression activity of rhizoplane-enriched taxonomic and functional properties, collectively resulting in impaired plant host-microbiome interactions. Manipulation of the citrus root-associated microbiome, for instance, by inoculating citrus roots with beneficial Burkholderia strains, has potential to promote plant health. Our results provide novel insights for understanding the contributions of the community enrichment process of the root-associated microbiome to the plant hosts.
Keywords: Huanglongbing; Liberibacter; Metagenome; Metatranscriptome; Rhizoplane microbiome; Rhizosphere microbiome.