Frontiers in Microbiology
Frontiers Research Foundation
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The endophytic microbiome may influence the ecological performance of plants, including forest trees. Various abiotic and biotic factors may shape the endophyte communities directly but also indirectly, by modifying the quality of host plants as a substrate. We hypothesized that potentially antifungal or fungistatic condensed tannins (CTs) would determine the quality of aspen (Populus tremula) leaves as a substrate for endophytic fungi. By subjecting the plants to nitrogen fertilization (N) or herbivory (H; leaf beetles) we aimed to change the internal “chemical landscape”, especially the CT levels, in aspen leaves. We expected that this would lead to changes in the fungal community composition, in line with the predictions of heterogeneity-diversity relationship hypothesis. To test this we conducted a greenhouse study where aspen plants were subjected to N and H treatments, individually or in combination. The chemical status of the leaves was analyzed using GC/MS (114 metabolites), LC/MS (11 phenolics) and UV-spectrometry (CTs) and the endophytic communities were characterized using culture-dependent sequencing. Nitrogen treatment, alone or in combination with herbivory had a suppressing effect on the concentration and within-treatment variation in the CT precursors, catechins, and resulted in similar trend also in CTs. Nitrogen increased the concentration of certain amino acids, and it also tended to increase most of the analyzed sugars sugars. Herbivory had a negligible effect on chemical traits. In N-treated plants, the endophyte richness and abundance were higher than in plants exposed to H, but in general, the diversity of the culturable endophytes remained stable despite the subtle changes in leaf chemistry.
Witzell J, Decker VHG, Agostinelli M, Romeralo C, Cleary M and Albrectsen BR (2022) Aspen Leaves as a “Chemical Landscape” for Fungal Endophyte Diversity—Effects of Nitrogen Addition. Front. Microbiol. 13:846208. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.846208