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Relationship between assemblages of mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria on grass roots

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*E-mail b.singh@macaulay.ac.uk; Tel. +44-1224-498200; Fax +44-1224-4982007.

Summary

Soils support an enormous microbial diversity, but the ecological drivers of this diversity are poorly understood. Interactions between the roots of individual grass species and the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and bacteria in their rhizoplane were studied in a grazed, unimproved upland pasture. Individual root fragments were isolated from soil cores, DNA extracted and used to identify plant species and assess rhizoplane bacterial and AM fungal assemblages, by amplifying part of the small-subunit ribosomal RNA gene, followed by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. For the first time we showed that AM fungal and bacterial assemblages are related in situ and that this relationship occurred at the community level. Principal coordinate analyses of the data show that the AM fungi were a major factor determining the bacterial assemblage on grass roots. We also report a strong influence of the composition of the plant community on AM fungal assemblage. The bacterial assemblage was also influenced by soil pH and was spatially structured, whereas AM fungi were influenced neither by the bacteria nor by soil pH. Our study shows that linkages between plant roots and their microbial communities exist in a complex web of interactions that act at individual and at community levels, with AM fungi influencing the bacterial assemblage, but not the other way round.

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