Arid zones contain a diverse set of microbes capable of survival under dry conditions, some of which can form relationships with plants under drought stress conditions to improve plant health. We studied squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) root microbiome under historically arid and humid sites, both in situ and performing a common garden experiment. Plants were grown in soils from sites with different drought levels, using in situ collected soils as the microbial source. We described and analyzed bacterial diversity by 16S rRNA gene sequencing (N = 48) from the soil, rhizosphere, and endosphere. Proteobacteria were the most abundant phylum present in humid and arid samples, while Actinobacteriota abundance was higher in arid ones. The β-diversity analyses showed split microbiomes between arid and humid microbiomes, and aridity and soil pH levels could explain it. These differences between humid and arid microbiomes were maintained in the common garden experiment, showing that it is possible to transplant in situ diversity to the greenhouse. We detected a total of 1009 bacterial genera; 199 exclusively associated with roots under arid conditions. By 16S and shotgun metagenomics, we identified dry-associated taxa such as Cellvibrio, Ensifer adhaerens, and Streptomyces flavovariabilis. With shotgun metagenomic sequencing of rhizospheres (N = 6), we identified 2969 protein families in the squash core metagenome and found an increased number of exclusively protein families from arid (924) than humid samples (158). We found arid conditions enriched genes involved in protein degradation and folding, oxidative stress, compatible solute synthesis, and ion pumps associated with osmotic regulation. Plant phenotyping allowed us to correlate bacterial communities with plant growth. Our study revealed that it is possible to evaluate microbiome diversity ex-situ and identify critical species and genes involved in plant-microbe interactions in historically arid locations.
Keywords: Arid ecosystems; Metagenomics; Microbiome; Rhizosphere; Root endosphere; Squash (Cucurbita pepo).
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