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Seminar: Assembly of Epiphytic Bacterial Communities on Plants and Their Interactions with the Plant Host

Richard R. Nelson Memorial Lecture Series Speaker Dr. Steven E. Lindow, Professor, Executive Associate Dean, College of Natural Resources, University of California-Berkeley

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April 23, 2018, 3:35 PM - 4:30 PM

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Foliar plant surfaces such as leaves support large population sizes of a variety of bacteria and fungi. These epiphytes can contain plant pathogens and ice nucleating bacteria capable of damaging the plant, but also taxa that are beneficial to the plant in various ways. Nutrient resources supplied by the plant are heterogeneously dispersed on plant surfaces, leading to spatially aggregated bacterial communities in which survival is much enhanced and sharing of signaling molecules is facilitated compared to more solitary cells. Bacteria also modify the local microenvironments that they inhabit on leaf surfaces such as by producing 3-indole acetic acid to modulate nutrient availability as well as hygroscopic biosurfactants that prevent desiccation of these epiphytes. As an open habitat, bacterial community composition is strongly driven by the immigration of inoculum. The emigration of bacteria into the air from plants is a very active process, and the composition of airborne microbial communities is strongly driven by the characteristics of the plants from which the bacteria emigrated. The assembly of bacteria on plants is thus driven by a combination of highly localized modification of leaf surfaces by bacterial colonists and the larger scale patterns of airborne bacterial cells driven by release from other local plant hosts.

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814-865-7448