Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense) fruit bacterial communities are not variable across fine spatial scales


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Fruit house microbial communities that are unique from the rest of the plant. While symbiotic microbial communities complete important functions for their hosts, the fruit microbiome is often understudied compared to other plant organs. Fruits are reproductive tissues that house, protect, and facilitate the dispersal of seeds, and thus they are directly tied to plant fitness. Fruit microbial communities may, therefore, also impact plant fitness. In this study, we assessed how bacterial communities associated with fruit of Solanum carolinense, a native herbaceous perennial weed, vary at fine spatial scales (<0.5 km). A majority of the studies conducted on plant microbial communities have been done at large spatial scales and have observed microbial community variation across these large spatial scales. However, both the environment and pollinators play a role in shaping plant microbial communities and likely have impacts on the plant microbiome at fine scales. We collected fruit samples from eight sampling locations, ranging from 2 to 450 m apart, and assessed the fruit bacterial communities using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Overall, we found no differences in observed richness or microbial community composition among sampling locations. Bacterial community structure of fruits collected near one another were not more different than those that were farther apart at the scales we examined. These fine spatial scales are important to obligate out-crossing plant species such as S. carolinense because they are ecologically relevant to pollinators. Thus, our results could imply that pollinators serve to homogenize fruit bacterial communities across these smaller scales.



Solanum carolinense, Bacteria, Microbiome, Fruit microbiome, Spatial distance