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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37288. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037288. Epub 2012 May 22.

Multitrophic interaction in the rhizosphere of maize: root feeding of Western corn rootworm larvae alters the microbial community composition.

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Julius Kühn-Institut-Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (JKI), Braunschweig, Germany.



Larvae of the Western Corn Rootworm (WCR) feeding on maize roots cause heavy economical losses in the US and in Europe. New or adapted pest management strategies urgently require a better understanding of the multitrophic interaction in the rhizosphere. This study aimed to investigate the effect of WCR root feeding on the microbial communities colonizing the maize rhizosphere.


In a greenhouse experiment, maize lines KWS13, KWS14, KWS15 and MON88017 were grown in three different soil types in presence and in absence of WCR larvae. Bacterial and fungal community structures were analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of the 16S rRNA gene and ITS fragments, PCR amplified from the total rhizosphere community DNA. DGGE bands with increased intensity were excised from the gel, cloned and sequenced in order to identify specific bacteria responding to WCR larval feeding. DGGE fingerprints showed that the soil type and the maize line influenced the fungal and bacterial communities inhabiting the maize rhizosphere. WCR larval feeding affected the rhiyosphere microbial populations in a soil type and maize line dependent manner. DGGE band sequencing revealed an increased abundance of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus in the rhizosphere of several maize lines in all soil types upon WCR larval feeding.


The effects of both rhizosphere and WCR larval feeding seemed to be stronger on bacterial communities than on fungi. Bacterial and fungal community shifts in response to larval feeding were most likely due to changes of root exudation patterns. The increased abundance of A. calcoaceticus suggested that phenolic compounds were released upon WCR wounding.

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