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Pathogen Infection Influences A Distinct Microbial Community Composition In Sorghum RILs

K. Masenya, G. D. Thompson, M. Tekere, T. P. Makhalanyane, R. E. Pierneef, D. J. G. Rees

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Abstract Aims The rhizosphere microbiome substantially affects plant health, yet comparatively little is known regarding the foliar community dynamics. Here, we examine the relationship between the microbiota and their response to natural infection by pathogens. Methods We established an experimental system using a set of sorghum recombinant inbred lines (RILS). These RILS included four models denoted as resistant, moderately resistant, susceptible and highly susceptible. A combination of 16S rRNA and ITS gene amplicon approaches was used to assess bacteria and fungi, respectively, in foliar samples. Results We show that the foliar microbiome differs substantially in asymptomatic and symptomatic RILs subsequent to natural infection by pathogens. A significant association was found between plant health and microbial community structure. Our analyses revealed several distinct fungal and bacterial pathogens. These pathogens included Gibberella and Pantoea genera, which were associated with the highly susceptible group. In addition to these pathogens, we also found signatures for Ascochyta, a known plant pathogenic genus. Members of the bacterial genus Methylorubrum and the fungal genus Hannaella, both known to exhibit plant growth-promoting (PGP) traits, were associated with the resistant and moderately resistant groups. These data also reveal numerous highly diverse fungal and bacterial taxa in RILs that did not show symptoms. We also found taxonomic differences between the microbiota hosted by the symptomatic and asymptomatic RILs. Conclusions Together, these data suggest that pathogen infection may result in distinct microbiota. These results suggest that highly diverse microbiome may promote the plants ability to resist the effects of pathogens potentially contributing to plant health.