Shifts in plant foliar and floral metabolomes in response to the suppression of the associated microbiota

Albert Gargallo-Garriga, Jordi Sardans, Míriam Pérez-Trujillo, Alex Guenther, Joan Llusià, Laura Rico, Jaume Terradas, Gerard Farré-Armengol, Iolanda Filella, Teodor Parella, Josep Peñuelas

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© 2016 Gargallo-Garriga et al. Background: The phyllospheric microbiota is assumed to play a key role in the metabolism of host plants. Its role in determining the epiphytic and internal plant metabolome, however, remains to be investigated. We analyzed the Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) profiles of the epiphytic and internal metabolomes of the leaves and flowers of Sambucus nigra with and without external antibiotic treatment application. Results: The epiphytic metabolism showed a degree of complexity similar to that of the plant organs. The suppression of microbial communities by topical applications of antibiotics had a greater impact on the epiphytic metabolome than on the internal metabolomes of the plant organs, although even the latter changed significantly both in leaves and flowers. The application of antibiotics decreased the concentration of lactate in both epiphytic and organ metabolomes, and the concentrations of citraconic acid, acetyl-CoA, isoleucine, and several secondary compounds such as terpenes and phenols in the epiphytic extracts. The metabolite pyrogallol appeared in the floral epiphytic community only after the treatment. The concentrations of the amino acid precursors of the ketoglutarate-synthesis pathway tended to decrease in the leaves and to increase in the foliar epiphytic extracts. Conclusions: These results suggest that anaerobic and/or facultative anaerobic bacteria were present in high numbers in the phyllosphere and in the apoplasts of S. nigra. The results also show that microbial communities play a significant role in the metabolomes of plant organs and could have more complex and frequent mutualistic, saprophytic, and/or parasitic relationships with internal plant metabolism than currently assumed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number78
JournalBMC Plant Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2016


  • Antibiotics
  • Epiphytic and endophytic microbiota
  • Metabolites
  • Sambucus nigra


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