BackgroundThe transformation of plant photosynthate into soil organic carbon and its recycling to CO2 by soil microorganisms is one of the central components of the terrestrial carbon cycle. There are currently large knowledge gaps related to which soil-associated microorganisms take up plant carbon in the rhizosphere and the fate of that carbon.
ResultsWe conducted an experiment in which common wild oats (Avena fatua) were grown in a 13CO2 atmosphere and the rhizosphere and non-rhizosphere soil was sampled for genomic analyses. Density gradient centrifugation of DNA extracted from soil samples enabled distinction of microbes that did and did not incorporate the 13C into their DNA. A 1.45-Mbp genome of a Saccharibacteria (TM7) was identified and, despite the microbial complexity of rhizosphere soil, curated to completion. The genome lacks many biosynthetic pathways, including genes required to synthesize DNA de novo. Rather, it requires externally derived nucleotides for DNA and RNA synthesis. Given this, we conclude that rhizosphere-associated Saccharibacteria recycle DNA from bacteria that live off plant exudates and/or phage that acquired 13C because they preyed upon these bacteria and/or directly from the labeled plant DNA. Isotopic labeling indicates that the population was replicating during the 6-week period of plant growth. Interestingly, the genome is ~ 30% larger than other complete Saccharibacteria genomes from non-soil environments, largely due to more genes for complex carbon utilization and amino acid metabolism. Given the ability to degrade cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, starch, and 1,3-β-glucan, we predict that this Saccharibacteria generates energy by fermentation of soil necromass and plant root exudates to acetate and lactate. The genome also encodes a linear electron transport chain featuring a terminal oxidase, suggesting that this Saccharibacteria may respire aerobically. The genome encodes a hydrolase that could breakdown salicylic acid, a plant defense signaling molecule, and genes to interconvert a variety of isoprenoids, including the plant hormone zeatin.
ConclusionsRhizosphere Saccharibacteria likely depend on other bacteria for basic cellular building blocks. We propose that isotopically labeled CO2 is incorporated into plant-derived carbon and then into the DNA of rhizosphere organisms capable of nucleotide synthesis, and the nucleotides are recycled into Saccharibacterial genomes.