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Phytopathology. 2015 Aug;105(8):1036-42. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO-02-15-0050-RVW. Epub 2015 Jul 29.

Artificial Surfaces in Phyllosphere Microbiology.

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Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.


The study of microorganisms that reside on plant leaf surfaces, or phyllosphere microbiology, greatly benefits from the availability of artificial surfaces that mimic in one or more ways the complexity of foliage as a microbial habitat. These leaf surface proxies range from very simple, such as nutrient agars that can reveal the metabolic versatility or antagonistic properties of leaf-associated microorganisms, to the very complex, such as silicon-based casts that replicate leaf surface topography down to nanometer resolution. In this review, we summarize the various uses of artificial surfaces in experimental phyllosphere microbiology and discuss how these have advanced our understanding of the biology of leaf-associated microorganisms and the habitat they live in. We also provide an outlook into future uses of artificial leaf surfaces, foretelling a greater role for microfluidics to introduce biological and chemical gradients into artificial leaf environments, stressing the importance of artificial surfaces to generate quantitative data that support computational models of microbial life on real leaves, and rethinking the leaf surface ('phyllosphere') as a habitat that features two intimately connected but very different compartments, i.e., the leaf surface landscape ('phylloplane') and the leaf surface waterscape ('phyllotelma').

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