Álvaro López-García, Sebastian Horn, Matthias C. Rillig, Stefan Hempel; Spatial and niche-based ecological processes drive the distribution of endophytic Sebacinales in soil and root of grassland communities. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 2016; 92 (6): fiw079. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiw079
The interest in endophytic sebacinalean communities has been increasing during the last decade due to the increased knowledge about their symbiotic life style and potential role for ecosystem functioning. Although they are present in many ecosystems, their abundance in individual plant roots is very limited. This fact affects their study: they are difficult to isolate and to detect in root DNA samples. To advance knowledge of the forces that shape their distribution, we approached the parallel study of sebacinalean communities in roots and soil of grassland. Using a small-scale spatially explicit sampling design, we analysed the contribution of spatial position, soil properties, plant community and phylogenetic components to the variation of sebacinalean communities. The results revealed the presence of 11 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and a high coincidence between root and soil communities: on an average a single-OTU per sample was recorded for both sample types. Spatial distance was found to mainly drive the distribution of Sebacinales in soil, whereas phylogenetic plus environmental signatures mainly drove their presence in roots. Independently of the sample type, we found clear evidence of environmental filtering caused by soil pH which, furthermore, seemed to control the presence of a specialized sebacinalean OTU.