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MICROBIAL ECOLOGY OF ENDOPHYTIC BACTERIA IN ZEA SPECIES AS INFLUENCED BY PLANT GENOTYPE, SEED ORIGIN, AND SOIL ENVIRONMENT

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Title: MICROBIAL ECOLOGY OF ENDOPHYTIC BACTERIA IN ZEA SPECIES AS INFLUENCED BY PLANT GENOTYPE, SEED ORIGIN, AND SOIL ENVIRONMENT
Author: Johnston Monje, David Morris
Department: Department of Plant Agriculture
Program: Plant Agriculture
Abstract: Endophytes are organisms that live inside plants without causing disease and include microbes that benefit their hosts by aiding in nutrient acquisition and pathogen control. This thesis concerns the endophytes of the genus Zea which includes modern maize (Zea mays L.). Beginning 9,000 years ago, maize was domesticated from wild grasses in Mexico (teosintes), bred into diverse varieties and moved to new soils throughout the Americas. The impact of these long-term changes on the associated endophytic communities has not been examined. Furthermore, today, maize is routinely transplanted around the world to facilitate breeding, but the short-term impact of switching soils on endophyte composition is not known. I attempted to answer the first question by surveying the bacterial endophytes that inhabit 14 diverse ancestral, ancient and modern Zea genotypes. To answer the second question, three extreme Zea genotypes, ancestral, intermediate and modern, were grown side by side on two extreme soils that span the tropical-to-temperate migration route of maize. Endophyte populations from seeds, roots and shoots were DNA fingerprinted using terminal restriction length polymorphism (TRFLP) of 16S rDNA. To understand microbial functions, bacteria were cultured and tested for >13 in vitro traits including nitrogen fixation, phosphate solubilization, plant hormone production and antibiosis. Relationships between endophyte communities were analyzed using principle component analysis (PCA) and Sᴓrensen’s similarity index. The results show that different Zea tissues and genotypes have diverse endophytic communities. The community composition of seed endophytes correlates with host phylogeny suggesting that as humans bred maize, they inadvertently impacted its microbial inhabitants, though the change was gradual. Soil swapping and growth on sterile sand confirm that shoot and root endophyte communities in juvenile plants are primarily inherited. However, a given maize genotype can also select and take up the same microbes (based on TRFLP) from geographically diverse soils. These latter results show that the endophyte communities of Zea plants are significantly buffered from the short-term effects of migration. A few microbes and microbial traits are conserved across all Zea genotypes and soil treatments, suggestive of a core taxonomic and functional microbiota for this agriculturally important genus.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/2747
Date: 2011-05


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