Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2016

Abstract

The leaves of Tamarix aphylla, a globally distributed, salt-secreting desert tree, are dotted with alkaline droplets of high salinity. To successfully inhabit these organic carbon-rich droplets, bacteria need to be adapted to multiple stress factors, including high salinity, high alkalinity, high UV radiation, and periodic desiccation. To identify genes that are important for survival in this harsh habitat, microbial community DNA was extracted from the leaf surfaces of 10 Tamarix aphylla trees along a 350-km longitudinal gradient. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing, contig assembly, and binning yielded 17 genome bins, six of which were >80% complete. These genomic bins, representing three phyla (Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Firmicutes), were closely related to halophilic and alkaliphilic taxa isolated from aquatic and soil environments. Comparison of these genomic bins to the genomes of their closest relatives revealed functional traits characteristic of bacterial populations inhabiting the Tamarix phyllosphere, independent of their taxonomic affiliation. These functions, most notably light-sensing genes, are postulated to represent important adaptations toward colonization of this habitat.

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