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Exploring biodiversity in the bacterial community of the Mediterranean phyllosphere and its relationship with airborne bacteria

Despoina Vokou, Katerina Vareli, Ekaterini Zarali, Katerina Karamanoli, Helen-Isis A Constantinidou, Nikolaos Monokrousos, John M Halley, Ioannis Sainis
Microbial Ecology 2012, 64 (3): 714-24
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We studied the structure and diversity of the phyllosphere bacterial community of a Mediterranean ecosystem, in summer, the most stressful season in this environment. To this aim, we selected nine dominant perennial species, namely Arbutus unedo, Cistus incanus, Lavandula stoechas, Myrtus communis, Phillyrea latifolia, Pistacia lentiscus, Quercus coccifera (woody), Calamintha nepeta, and Melissa officinalis (herbaceous). We also examined the extent to which airborne bacteria resemble the epiphytic ones. Genotype composition of the leaf and airborne bacteria was analysed by using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis profiling of a 16S rDNA gene fragment; 75 bands were cloned and sequenced corresponding to 28 taxa. Of these, two were found both in the air and the phyllosphere, eight only in the air, and the remaining 18 only in the phyllosphere. Only four taxa were found on leaves of all nine plant species. Cluster analysis showed highest similarity for the five evergreen sclerophyllous species. Aromatic plants were not grouped all together: the representatives of Lamiaceae, bearing both glandular and non-glandular trichomes, formed a separate group, whereas the aromatic and evergreen sclerophyllous M. communis was grouped with the other species of the same habit. The epiphytic communities that were the richest in bacterial taxa were those of C. nepeta and M. officinalis (Lamiaceae). Our results highlight the remarkable presence of lactic acid bacteria in the phyllosphere under the harsh conditions of the Mediterranean summer, the profound dissimilarity in the structure of bacterial communities in phyllosphere and air, and the remarkable differences of leaf microbial communities on neighbouring plants subjected to similar microbial inocula; they also point to the importance of the leaf glandular trichome in determining colonization patterns.

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