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ISME J. 2012 Feb;6(2):363-83. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.100. Epub 2011 Jul 28.

Huanglongbing alters the structure and functional diversity of microbial communities associated with citrus rhizosphere.

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Citrus Research and Education Center, Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, University of Florida, Lake Alfred, FL 33850, USA.


The diversity and stability of bacterial communities present in the rhizosphere heavily influence soil and plant quality and ecosystem sustainability. The goal of this study is to understand how 'Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus' (known to cause Huanglongbing, HLB) influences the structure and functional potential of microbial communities associated with the citrus rhizosphere. Clone library sequencing and taxon/group-specific quantitative real-time PCR results showed that 'Ca. L. asiaticus' infection restructured the native microbial community associated with citrus rhizosphere. Within the bacterial community, phylum Proteobacteria with various genera typically known as successful rhizosphere colonizers were significantly greater in clone libraries from healthy samples, whereas phylum Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria and Firmicutes, typically more dominant in the bulk soil were higher in 'Ca. L. asiaticus'-infected samples. A comprehensive functional microarray GeoChip 3.0 was used to determine the effects of 'Ca. L. asiaticus' infection on the functional diversity of rhizosphere microbial communities. GeoChip analysis showed that HLB disease has significant effects on various functional guilds of bacteria. Many genes involved in key ecological processes such as nitrogen cycling, carbon fixation, phosphorus utilization, metal homeostasis and resistance were significantly greater in healthy than in the 'Ca. L. asiaticus'-infected citrus rhizosphere. Our results showed that the microbial community of the 'Ca. L. asiaticus'-infected citrus rhizosphere has shifted away from using more easily degraded sources of carbon to the more recalcitrant forms. Overall, our study provides evidence that the change in plant physiology mediated by 'Ca. L. asiaticus' infection could elicit shifts in the composition and functional potential of rhizosphere microbial communities. In the long term, these fluctuations might have important implications for the productivity and sustainability of citrus-producing agro-ecosystems.

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