Diffuse symbioses: Roles of plant-plant, plant-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions in structuring the soil microbiome

Matthew G. Bakker, Daniel C. Schlatter, Lindsey Otto-Hanson, Linda L. Kinkel

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117 Scopus citations


A conceptual model emphasizing direct host-microbe interactions has dominated work on host-associated microbiomes. To understand plant-microbiome associations, however, broader influences on microbiome composition and functioning must be incorporated, such as those arising from plant-plant and microbe-microbe interactions. We sampled soil microbiomes associated with target plant species (Andropogon gerardii, Schizachyrium scoparium, Lespedeza capitata, Lupinus perennis) grown in communities varying in plant richness (1-, 4-, 8- or 16-species). We assessed Streptomyces antagonistic activity and analysed bacterial and Streptomyces populations via 454 pyrosequencing. Host plant species and plant richness treatments altered networks of coassociation among bacterial taxa, suggesting the potential for host plant effects on the soil microbiome to include changes in microbial interaction dynamics and, consequently, co-evolution. Taxa that were coassociated in the rhizosphere of a given host plant species often showed consistent correlations between operational taxonomic unit (OTU) relative abundance and Streptomyces antagonistic activity, in the rhizosphere of that host. However, in the rhizosphere of a different host plant species, the same OTUs showed no consistency, or a different pattern of responsiveness to such biotic habitat characteristics. The diversity and richness of bacterial and Streptomyces communities exhibited distinct relationships with biotic and abiotic soil characteristics. The rhizosphere soil microbiome is influenced by a complex and nested array of factors at varying spatial scales, including plant community, plant host, soil edaphics and microbial taxon and community characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1571-1583
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Streptomyces
  • coassociation networks
  • soil microbiome
  • species interactions


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