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Simple methods to remove microbes from leaf surfaces.

  • Author(s): Saldierna Guzmán, J Paola;
  • Nguyen, Kennedy;
  • Hart, Stephen C
  • et al.

Endophytes have been defined as microorganisms living inside plant tissues without causing negative effects on their hosts. Endophytic microbes have been extensively studied for their plant growth-promoting traits. However, analyses of endophytes require complete removal of epiphytic microorganisms. We found that the established tests to evaluate surface sterility, polymerase chain reaction, and leaf imprints, are unreliable. Therefore, we used scanning electron microscopy (SEM) as an additional assessment of epiphyte removal. We used a diverse suite of sterilization protocols to remove epiphytic microorganisms from the leaves of a gymnosperm and an angiosperm tree to test the influence of leaf morphology on the efficacy of these methods. Additionally, leaf tissue damage was also evaluated by SEM, as damaging the leaves might have an impact on endophytes and could lead to inaccurate assessment of endophytic communities. Our study indicates, that complete removal of the leaf cuticle by the sterilization technique assures loss of epiphytic microbes, and that leaves of different tree species may require different sterilization protocols. Furthermore, our study demonstrates the importance of choosing the appropriate sterilization protocol to prevent erroneous interpretation of host-endophyte interactions. Moreover, it shows the utility of SEM for evaluating the effectiveness of surface sterilization methods and their impact on leaf tissue integrity.

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