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Host genetic control of succession in the switchgrass leaf fungal microbiome

By Acer VanWallendael, Gian Maria Niccolo Benucci, Pedro Beschoren da Costa, Linnea Fraser, Gregory Bonito, Felix B. Fritschi, Tom E Juenger, John T. Lovell, Avinash Sreedasyam, David Lowry

Posted 28 Mar 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.26.437207

Leaf fungal microbiomes can be fundamental drivers of host plant success, as they contain pathogens that devastate crop plants and taxa that enhance nutrient uptake, discourage herbivory, and antagonize pathogens. We measured leaf fungal diversity with amplicon sequencing across an entire growing season in a diversity panel of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). We also sampled a replicated subset of genotypes across three additional sites to compare the importance of time, space, ecology, and genetics. We found a strong successional pattern in the microbiome shaped both by host genetics and environmental factors. Further, we used genome-wide association mapping and RNA-sequencing to show that three cysteine-rich receptor-like kinases were linked to a genetic locus associated with microbiome structure. These genes were more highly expressed in genotypes susceptible to fungal pathogens, which were central to microbial covariance networks, suggesting that host immune genes are a principal means of controlling the entire leaf microbiome.

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