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Title: Metatranscriptomic analysis of community structure and metabolism of the rhizosphere microbiome
Author: Turner, Thomas
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2013
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Plant-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere, the region of soil influenced by plant roots, are integral to biogeochemical cycling, and maintenance of plant health and productivity. Interactions between model plants and microbes are well understood, but relatively little is about the plant microbiome. Here, comparative metatranscriptomics was used to determine taxonomic compositions and metabolic responses of microbes in soil and the rhizospheres of wheat, oat and pea. Additionally a wild-type oat was compared to a mutant (sad1) deficient in production of antifungal avenacins. Analyses of taxonomic compositions and functions based on rRNA and protein coding genes agreed that rhizosphere microbiomes differed from soil and between plant species. Pea had a stronger effect than wheat and oat, suggesting distinct cereal and legume microbiomes. Proportions of eukaryotic rRNA in the oat and pea rhizospheres were more than fivefold higher than in the wheat rhizosphere or soil. Nematodes and bacterivorous protozoa were enriched in all rhizospheres, while the pea rhizosphere was highly enriched for fungi. Only the eukaryotic community was distinct from wild-type oat in the sad1 mutant, suggesting avenacins have a broader role than protecting from fungal pathogens. The addition of an internal RNA standard allowed quantitative determination of global transcriptional activity in each environment. This was generally higher in the rhizospheres, particularly pea, than in soil. Taxa known to possess metabolic traits potentially important for rhizosphere colonisation, plant growth promotion and pathogenesis were selected by plants. Such traits included cellulose and other plant polymer degradation, nitrogen fixation, hydrogen oxidation, methylotrophy and antibiotic production. These functions were also more highly expressed in rhizospheres than soil. Microbes also induced functions involved in chemotaxis, motility, attachment, pathogenesis, responses to oxidative stress, cycling of nitrogen and sulphur, acquisition of phosphorous, iron and other metals, as well as metabolism of a variety of sugars, aromatics, organic and amino acids, many plant species specific. Profiling microbial communities with metatranscriptomics allowed comparison of relative and quantitative abundance of microbes and their metabolism, from multiple samples, across all domains of life, without PCR bias. This revealed profound differences in the taxonomic composition and metabolic functions of rhizosphere microbiomes between crop plants and soil.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available