Bacterial family-specific enrichment and functions of secretion systems in the rhizosphere

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The plant rhizosphere is a highly selective environment where bacteria have developed traits to establish themselves or outcompete other microbes. These traits include bacterial secretion systems (SS’s) that range from Type I (T1SS) to Type IX (T9SS) and can play diverse roles. The best known functions are to secrete various proteins or other compounds into the extracellular space or into neighbouring cells, including toxins to attack other microbes or effectors to suppress plant host immune responses. Here, we aimed to determine which bacterial SS’s were associated with the plant rhizosphere. We utilised paired metagenomic datasets of rhizosphere and bulk soil samples from five different plant species grown in a wide variety of soil types, amounting to ten different studies. The T3SS and T6SS were generally enriched in the rhizosphere, as observed in studies of individual plant-associated genera. We also identified additional SS’s that have received less attention thus far, such as the T2SS, T5SS and Bacteroidetes -specific T6SSiii and T9SS. The predicted secreted proteins of some of these systems (T3SS, T5SS and T6SS) could be linked to functions such as toxin secretion, adhesion to the host and facilitation of plant-host interactions (such as root penetration). The most prominent bacterial taxa with rhizosphere- or soil-enriched SS’s included Xanthomonadaceae , Oxalobacteraceae , Comamonadaceae , Caulobacteraceae , and Chitinophagaceae, broadening the scope of known plant-associated taxa that use these systems. We anticipate that the SS’s and taxa identified in this study may be utilised for the optimisation of bioinoculants to improve plant productivity.

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