Dr. Arne Weinhold (Freie Universität Berlin)
in: 'Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution': "Host-microbiome manipulation - phenotyping a stochastic trait"
by Dr. Arne Weinhold (Freie Universität Berlin)
Host-microbe symbioses seem to play major roles in several biotic and abiotic interactions of plants and animals and are believed to be beneficial for growth, immune priming or resistance against various stresses. Although high-throughput sequencing analysis has become a routine to characterize complex microbial communities, the investigation of microbiome function still remains challenging. Host-genotype dependencies are often overrated, and less attention has been paid on the importance of priority effects and community assembly theories within natural ecosystems. While the manipulation of host-microbe systems by antibiotics has been demonstrated under laboratory conditions, it was so far unsuccessful in altering plant-microbe interactions under native growth conditions. Here I present the outcome of using heterologous expression of antimicrobial peptides in plants as an alternative to study plant-microbe interactions in the field. While transgenic plants show indeed antimicrobial activity against plant-beneficial microbes in the glasshouse, those effects seem to be negligible under field conditions and demonstrate that the diversity of natural microbial communities limits these applications within natural ecosystems.