Monitoring Bacterial Colonization and Maintenance on Arabidopsis thaliana Roots in a Floating Hydroponic System

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Bacteria form complex rhizosphere microbiomes shaped by interacting microbes, larger organisms, and the abiotic environment. Under laboratory conditions, rhizosphere colonization by plant growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB) can increase the health or the development of host plants relative to uncolonized plants. However, in field settings, bacterial treatments with PGPB often do not provide substantial benefits to crops. One explanation is that this may be due to loss of the PGPB during interactions with endogenous soil microbes over the lifespan of the plant. This possibility has been difficult to confirm, since most studies focus on the initial colonization rather than maintenance of PGPB within rhizosphere communities. It is hypothesized here that the assembly, coexistence, and maintenance of bacterial communities are shaped by deterministic features of the rhizosphere microenvironment, and that these interactions may impact PGPB survival in native settings. To study these behaviors, a hydroponic plant-growth assay is optimized using Arabidopsis thaliana to quantify and visualize the spatial distribution of bacteria during initial colonization of plant roots and after transfer to different growth environments. This system’s reproducibility and utility are then validated with the well-studied PGPB Pseudomonas simiae. To investigate how the presence of multiple bacterial species may affect colonization and maintenance dynamics on the plant root, a model community from three bacterial strains (an Arthrobacter, Curtobacterium, and Microbacterium species) originally isolated from the A. thaliana rhizosphere is constructed. It is shown that the presence of these diverse bacterial species can be measured using this hydroponic plant-maintanence assay, which provides an alternative to sequencing-based bacterial community studies. Future studies using this system may improve the understanding of bacterial behavior in multispecies plant microbiomes over time and in changing environmental conditions.