Interspecific interactions facilitate keystone species in a multispecies biofilm that promotes plant growth

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Microorganisms colonizing plant roots co-exist in complex, spatially structured multispecies biofilm communities. However, little is known about microbial interactions and the underlying spatial organization within biofilm communities established on plant roots. Here, a well-established four-species biofilm model (Stenotrophomonas rhizophila, Paenibacillus amylolyticus, Microbacterium oxydans, and Xanthomonas retroflexus, termed as SPMX) was applied to Arabidopsis roots to study the impact of multispecies biofilm on plant growth and the community spatial dynamics on the roots. SPMX co-culture notably promoted root development and plant biomass. Co-cultured SPMX increased root colonization and formed multispecies biofilms, structurally different from those formed by monocultures. By combining 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and fluorescence in situ hybridization with confocal laser scanning microscopy, we found that the composition and spatial organization of the four-species biofilm significantly changed over time. Monoculture P. amylolyticus colonized plant roots poorly, but its population and root colonization were highly enhanced when residing in the four-species biofilm. Exclusion of P. amylolyticus from the community reduced overall biofilm production and root colonization of the three species, resulting in the loss of the plant growth-promoting effects. Combined with spatial analysis, this led to identification of P. amylolyticus as a keystone species. Our findings highlight that weak root colonizers may benefit from mutualistic interactions in complex communities and hereby become important keystone species impacting community spatial organization and function. This work expands the knowledge on spatial organization uncovering interspecific interactions in multispecies biofilm communities on plant roots, beneficial for harnessing microbial mutualism promoting plant growth.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Society for Microbial Ecology.

    Research areas

  • interspecies interactions, keystone species, multispecies biofilms, mutualism, plant growth, spatial organization

ID: 386377217