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J Exp Bot. 2016 Feb;67(4):995-1002. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erv466. Epub 2015 Nov 7.

The plant microbiome explored: implications for experimental botany.

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Graz University of Technology, Institute of Environmental Biotechnology, 8010 Graz, Austria Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB GmbH), 8010 Graz, Austria.
Graz University of Technology, Institute of Environmental Biotechnology, 8010 Graz, Austria.
University of Graz, Institute of Plant Sciences, 8010 Graz, Austria.
Graz University of Technology, Institute of Environmental Biotechnology, 8010 Graz, Austria Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Biological Sciences Division, Richland, WA 99352, USA.


The importance of microbial root inhabitants for plant growth and health was recognized as early as 100 years ago. Recent insights reveal a close symbiotic relationship between plants and their associated microorganisms, and high structural and functional diversity within plant microbiomes. Plants provide microbial communities with specific habitats, which can be broadly categorized as the rhizosphere, phyllosphere, and endosphere. Plant-associated microbes interact with their host in essential functional contexts. They can stimulate germination and growth, help plants fend off disease, promote stress resistance, and influence plant fitness. Therefore, plants have to be considered as metaorganisms within which the associated microbes usually outnumber the cells belonging to the plant host. The structure of the plant microbiome is determined by biotic and abiotic factors but follows ecological rules. Metaorganisms are co-evolved species assemblages. The metabolism and morphology of plants and their microbiota are intensively connected with each other, and the interplay of both maintains the functioning and fitness of the holobiont. Our study of the current literature shows that analysis of plant microbiome data has brought about a paradigm shift in our understanding of the diverse structure and functioning of the plant microbiome with respect to the following: (i) the high interplay of bacteria, archaea, fungi, and protists; (ii) the high specificity even at cultivar level; (iii) the vertical transmission of core microbiomes; (iv) the extraordinary function of endophytes; and (v) several unexpected functions and metabolic interactions. The plant microbiome should be recognized as an additional factor in experimental botany and breeding strategies.


Endosphere; holobiont; microbiome; phyllosphere; plant-microbe interaction; rhizosphere.

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