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Keywords:

  • phyllosphere;
  • resurrection fern;
  • 16S rRNA gene;
  • wetting;
  • enrichment culture;
  • epiphytes

Abstract

A combination of analyses were used to characterize the changes that occur in a bacterial community present in the phyllosphere of the epiphytic resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides, as the fern rehydrates from a desiccation-resistant, physiologically inactive state. Enrichment assays showed an increase in the viable count of bacteria using labile organic substrates following rainfall. Isolates obtained from enrichments were predominantly Gram-positive bacteria affiliated with various groups of the Actinobacteria and Firmicutes. In contrast, sequencing of 16S rRNA genes clones obtained from whole community DNA revealed that much of the community was dominated by other taxa, particularly the Alphaproteobacteria. Similar isolates were obtained from both dry and hydrated P. polypodioides fronds, whereas 16S rRNA gene sequencing of community DNA revealed different ribotypes on the dry and wet fern, and an overall reduction in richness following wetting. Wetting also produced changes in phyllosphere extracellular enzyme activity, with an initial burst of activity following rainfall and a subsequent burst approximately 48 h later. These findings suggest that the resurrection fern harbors a complex phyllosphere community, and that rehydration of the fern following rainfall may act as an enrichment culture stimulating certain bacterial populations and changing the overall community structure and activity.