by US Department of Energy
Plants provide a home for a wide diversity of microbes, especially in their roots. In turn, these communities can provide important benefits for the host. A study published in Current Biology investigated how the genetics of host plants determine the composition of the bacterial communities associated with the plants' roots. The study identified a core set of bacterial strains that colonize switchgrass roots.
Many of these bacteria differ in abundance across plants' genotypes. The study then mapped genes in the host genome that appear to affect the abundance of these microbes. This mapping revealed that genes involved in host immunity, plant development, and hormone signaling have roles in how plants acquire their microbiome.
Plants rely on their microbiomes to perform vital functions. Researchers seek to breed plant varieties to increase the beneficial associations with bacteria. However, scientists have limited knowledge of the extent to which host genetics affect the composition of the microbiome.
This study found that the genotype of a host switchgrass plant affects a large portion of the plant's microbiome. The study also identified the switchgrass genes that appear to influence the abundance of these microbes. These results may help to engineer or breed plant varieties that form stronger beneficial associations with their microbiomes.