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Genome Biol Evol. 2019 Jan 1;11(1):319-334. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evy266.

Cycad Coralloid Roots Contain Bacterial Communities Including Cyanobacteria and Caulobacter spp. That Encode Niche-Specific Biosynthetic Gene Clusters.

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Evolution of Metabolic Diversity Laboratory, Unidad de Genómica Acanzada (Langebio), Irapuato, Guanajuato, México.
Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics Laboratory, Unidad de Genómica Avanzada (Langebio), Irapuato, Guanajuato, México.
Herbario Eizi Matuda, Laboratorio de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de Ciencias y Artes del Estado de Chiapas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México.


Cycads are the only early seed plants that have evolved a specialized root to host endophytic bacteria that fix nitrogen. To provide evolutionary and functional insights into this million-year old symbiosis, we investigate endophytic bacterial sub-communities isolated from coralloid roots of species from Dioon (Zamiaceae) sampled from their natural habitats. We employed a sub-community co-culture experimental strategy to reveal both predominant and rare bacteria, which were characterized using phylogenomics and detailed metabolic annotation. Diazotrophic plant endophytes, including Bradyrhizobium, Burkholderia, Mesorhizobium, Rhizobium, and Nostoc species, dominated the epiphyte-free sub-communities. Draft genomes of six cyanobacteria species were obtained after shotgun metagenomics of selected sub-communities. These data were used for whole-genome inferences that suggest two Dioon-specific monophyletic groups, and a level of specialization characteristic of co-evolved symbiotic relationships. Furthermore, the genomes of these cyanobacteria were found to encode unique biosynthetic gene clusters, predicted to direct the synthesis of specialized metabolites, mainly involving peptides. After combining genome mining with detection of pigment emissions using multiphoton excitation fluorescence microscopy, we also show that Caulobacter species co-exist with cyanobacteria, and may interact with them by means of a novel indigoidine-like specialized metabolite. We provide an unprecedented view of the composition of the cycad coralloid root, including phylogenetic and functional patterns mediated by specialized metabolites that may be important for the evolution of ancient symbiotic adaptations.

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