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Student-Directed Discovery of the Plant Microbiome and Its Products

Science  26 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6106, pp. 485-486
DOI: 10.1126/science.1215227

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Macroscopic organisms, even when healthy, harbor diverse microorganisms that influence their development, physiology, and fitness. This microbial diversity is accompanied by chemical diversity, which provides a platform for integrative research training spanning the biological and physical sciences. Our programs focus on the development of scientific inquiry skills through the lens of isolating microorganisms associated with plants and characterizing their bioactive natural products.

Endophytes are microbes, such as fungi and bacteria, that inhabit healthy plant tissue without causing disease (1). As symbionts, they constitute part of a diverse and ecologically important plant microbiome. Endophyte communities differ in composition among biomes and host species (2). They exhibit a wide range of host specificity and often enhance plant health (2, 3). The total number of estimated fungal species is in the millions, yet fewer than 100,000 have been characterized (4).