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Front Microbiol. 2015 Aug 28;6:887. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00887. eCollection 2015.

Microbiome interplay: plants alter microbial abundance and diversity within the built environment.

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Institute of Environmental Biotechnology, Graz University of Technology Graz, Austria.
Interactive Microbiome Research, Section of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Medical University Graz Graz, Austria ; BioTechMed Interuniversity Cooperation Centre Graz, Austria.


The built indoor microbiome has importance for human health. Residents leave their microbial fingerprint but nothing is known about the transfer from plants. Our hypothesis that indoor plants contribute substantially to the microbial abundance and diversity in the built environment was experimentally confirmed as proof of principle by analyzing the microbiome of the spider plant Chlorophytum comosum in relation to their surroundings. The abundance of Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryota (fungi) increased on surrounding floor and wall surfaces within 6 months of plant isolation in a cleaned indoor environment, whereas the microbial abundance on plant leaves and indoor air remained stable. We observed a microbiome shift: the bacterial diversity on surfaces increased significantly but fungal diversity decreased. The majority of cells were intact at the time of samplings and thus most probably alive including diverse Archaea as yet unknown phyllosphere inhabitants. LEfSe and network analysis showed that most microbes were dispersed from plant leaves to the surrounding surfaces. This led to an increase of specific taxa including spore-forming fungi with potential allergic potential but also beneficial plant-associated bacteria, e.g., Paenibacillus. This study demonstrates for the first time that plants can alter the microbiome of a built environment, which supports the significance of plants and provides insights into the complex interplay of plants, microbiomes and human beings.


16S gene and ITS region amplicons; Chlorophytum comosum; LEfSe analysis; built environment; indoor plants; interplay of microbiomes; network analysis; qPCR

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