Plant microbiome blueprints

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Science  21 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6250, pp. 788-789
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0092

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Just as the number of petals in a flower or the number of limbs on an animal follow predictable rules, host-associated microbial communities (“microbiomes”) have predictable compositions. At the level of bacterial phylum, the structure of the host-associated microbiome is conserved across individuals of a species (1, 2). The consistency and predictability of host-associated microbiomes—like many of the phenotypes of a particular multicellular organism—suggest that they too may, in part, be under the regulation of a genetic blueprint. Indeed, evidence in animals shows that through production of broad-spectrum antimicrobials, the innate immune system shapes the composition of the gut microbiome (3, 4). On page 860 of this issue, Lebeis et al. (5) reveal a critical role of the plant hormone salicylic acid in determining the higher-order organization of the root-associated microbiome of the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana.