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ISME J. 2010 Jun;4(6):719-28. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.9. Epub 2010 Feb 18.

Site and plant species are important determinants of the Methylobacterium community composition in the plant phyllosphere.

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  • 1Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. knief@micro.biol.ethz.ch


The plant phyllosphere constitutes a habitat for numerous microorganisms; among them are members of the genus Methylobacterium. Owing to the ubiquitous occurrence of methylobacteria on plant leaves, they represent a suitable target for studying plant colonization patterns. The influence of the factor site, host plant species, time and the presence of other phyllosphere bacteria on Methylobacterium community composition and population size were evaluated in this study. Leaf samples were collected from Arabidopsis thaliana or Medicago truncatula plants and from the surrounding plant species at several sites. The abundance of cultivable Methylobacterium clearly correlated with the abundance of other phyllosphere bacteria, suggesting that methylobacteria constitute a considerable and rather stable fraction of the phyllosphere microbiota under varying environmental conditions. Automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) was applied to characterize the Methylobacterium community composition and showed the presence of similar communities on A. thaliana plants at most sites in 2 consecutive years of sampling. A substantial part of the observed variation in the community composition was explained by site and plant species, especially in the case of the plants collected at the Arabidopsis sites (50%). The dominating ARISA peaks that were detected on A. thaliana plants were found on other plant species grown at the same site, whereas some different peaks were detected on A. thaliana plants from other sites. This indicates that site-specific factors had a stronger impact on the Methylobacterium community composition than did plant-specific factors and that the Methylobacterium-plant association is not highly host plant species specific.

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