DOI: 10.1111/mec.17218 ISSN: 0962-1083

Heritable differences in abundance of bacterial rhizosphere taxa are correlated with fungal necrotrophic pathogen resistance

Cloe S. Pogoda, Kyle G. Keepers, Stephan Reinert, Zahirul I. Talukder, Brian C. Smart, Ziv Attia, Jason A. Corwin, Kennedy L. Money, Erin C. E. Collier‐zans, William Underwood, Thomas J. Gulya, C. Alisha Quandt, Nolan C. Kane, Brent S. Hulke
  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Host–microbe interactions are increasingly recognized as important drivers of organismal health, growth, longevity and community‐scale ecological processes. However, less is known about how genetic variation affects hosts' associated microbiomes and downstream phenotypes. We demonstrate that sunflower (Helianthus annuus) harbours substantial, heritable variation in microbial communities under field conditions. We show that microbial communities co‐vary with heritable variation in resistance to root infection caused by the necrotrophic pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and that plants grown in autoclaved soil showed almost complete elimination of pathogen resistance. Association mapping suggests at least 59 genetic locations with effects on both microbial relative abundance and Sclerotinia resistance. Although the genetic architecture appears quantitative, we have elucidated previously unexplained genetic variation for resistance to this pathogen. We identify new targets for plant breeding and demonstrate the potential for heritable microbial associations to play important roles in defence in natural and human‐altered environments.

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