Unprecedented bacterial community richness in soybean nodules vary with cultivar and water status

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Background Soybean (Glycine max) and other legumes are key crops grown around the world, providing protein and nutrients to a growing population, in a way that is more sustainable than most other cropping systems. Diazotrophs inhabiting root nodules provide soybean with nitrogen required for growth. Despite the knowledge of culturable Bradyrhizobium spp. and how they can differ across cultivars, less is known about the overall bacterial community (bacteriome) diversity within nodules, in situ. This variability could have large functional ramifications for the long-standing scientific dogma related to the plant-bacteriome interaction. Water availability also impacts soybean, in part, as a result of water-deficit sensitive nodule diazotrophs. There is a dearth of information on the effects of cultivar and water status on in situ rhizobia and non-rhizobia populations of nodule microbiomes. Therefore, soybean nodule microbiomes, using 16S rRNA and nifH genes, were sampled from nine cultivars treated with different field water regimes. It was hypothesized that the nodule bacteriome, composition, and function among rhizobia and non-rhizobia would differ in response to cultivar and soil water status.

Results 16S rRNA and nifH showed dominance by Bradyrhizobiaceae, but a large diversity was observed across phylogenetic groups with < 1% and up to 45% relative abundance in cultivars. Other groups primarily included Pseudomonadaceae and Enterobacteriaceae. Thus, nodule bacteriomes were not only dominated by rhizobia, but also described by high variability and partly dependent on cultivar and water status. Consequently, the function of the nodule bacteriomes differed, especially due to cultivar. Amino acid profiling within nodules, for example, described functional changes due to both cultivar and water status.

Conclusions Overall, these results reveal previously undescribed richness and functional changes in Bradyrhizobiaceae and non-rhizobia within the soybean nodule microbiome. Though the exact role of these atypical bacteria and relative variations in Bradyrhizobium spp. is not clear, there is potential for exploitation of these novel findings of microbiome diversity and function. This diversity needs consideration as part of bacterial-inclusive breeding of soybean to improve traits, such as yield and seed quality, and environmental resilience.

Microbiome. 2019 Apr 16;7(1):63