Nature 488(7409) , 86-90 (Aug 2 2012)
Land plants associate with a root microbiota distinct from the complex microbial community present in surrounding soil. The microbiota colonizing the rhizosphere (immediately surrounding the root) and the endophytic compartment (within the root) contribute to plant growth, productivity, carbon sequestration and phytoremediation. Colonization of the root occurs despite a sophisticated plant immune system, suggesting finely tuned discrimination of mutualists and commensals from pathogens. Genetic principles governing the derivation of host-specific endophyte communities from soil communities are poorly understood. Here we report the pyrosequencing of the bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA gene of more than 600 Arabidopsis thaliana plants to test the hypotheses that the root rhizosphere and endophytic compartment microbiota of plants grown under controlled conditions in natural soils are sufficiently dependent on the host to remain consistent across different soil types and developmental stages, and sufficiently dependent on host genotype to vary between inbred Arabidopsis accessions. We describe different bacterial communities in two geochemically distinct bulk soils and in rhizosphere and endophytic compartments prepared from roots grown in these soils. The communities in each compartment are strongly influenced by soil type. Endophytic compartments from both soils feature overlapping, low-complexity communities that are markedly enriched in Actinobacteria and specific families from other phyla, notably Proteobacteria. Some bacteria vary quantitatively between plants of different developmental stage and genotype. Our rigorous definition of an endophytic compartment microbiome should facilitate controlled dissection of plant-microbe interactions derived from complex soil communities.