Nodule-associated microbiome diversity in wild populations of Sulla coronaria reveals clues on the relative importance of culturable rhizobial symbionts and co-infecting endophytes.


Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment, DAFNAE, University of Padova, Viale dell'Università 16, Legnaro, Padova, Italy. Electronic address: [Email]


The culturable bacteria from root nodules of Sulla coronaria growing in spontaneous conditions in Sardinia were characterized. This plant's peculiarity is to represent a legume still found in both wild and cropped statuses. We tested whether culturable bacteria would differ from those commonly isolated from its field-cropped varieties, to date exclusively represented by Rhizobium sullae. 63 isolates from 60 surface-sterilized nodules were analyzed by ARDRA and 16S rDNA sequencing. The official nitrogen-fixing symbiont Rhizobium sullae was found only in 25 nodules out of 60. The remaining nodules did not yield culturable rhizobia but a number of different endophytic genera including Pseudomonas sp. (17 nodules), Microbacterium sp. (15 nodules), Pantoea agglomerans (5 nodules). The situation appears therefore a hybrid between what is commonly observed in other Mediterranean legumes occurring only in wild status (featuring non-culturable rhizobia and arrays of culturable endophytes within nodules), as opposed to cropped legumes (endowed with fully culturable rhizobia and minimal endophytic occurrence). These findings, within a species bridging the ecology between native and cropped conditions, suggest insights on the relative importance of endophytic co-occupancy vs. true N-fixing symbiont culturability within nodules. The latter trait thus appears to accompany the domestication path of plants with a main trade-off of renouncing to interactions with a diversity of endophytic co-invaders; the relationships with those being critical in the non-cropped status. In fact, endophytes are known to promote plant growth in harsh conditions, which can be particularly stressful in the Mediterranean due to drought, highly calcareous soils, and pathogens outbreaks.


Bacteria,Endophytes,Hedysarumcoronarium,Rhizobium sullae,Root nodules,Sulla coronaria,