Phylosymbiosis in the Rhizosphere Microbiome Extends to Nitrogen Cycle Functional Potential

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Most plants rely on specialized root-associated microbes to obtain essential nitrogen (N), yet not much is known about the evolutionary history of the rhizosphere-plant interaction. We conducted a common garden experiment to investigate the plant root-rhizosphere microbiome association using chloridoid grasses sampled from around the world and grown from seed in a greenhouse. We sought to test whether plants that are more closely related phylogenetically have more similar root bacterial microbiomes than plants that are more distantly related. Using metagenome sequencing, we found that there is a conserved core and a variable rhizosphere bacterial microbiome across the chloridoid grasses. Additionally, phylogenetic distance among the host plant species was correlated with bacterial community composition, suggesting the plant hosts prefer specific bacterial lineages. The functional potential for N utilization across microbiomes fluctuated extensively and mirrored variation in the microbial community composition across host plants. Variation in the bacterial potential for N fixation was strongly affected by the host plants' phylogeny, whereas variation in N recycling, nitrification, and denitrification was unaffected. This study highlights the evolutionary linkage between the N fixation traits of the microbial community and the plant host and suggests that not all functional traits are equally important for plant-microbe associations.

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