A. Aziz Eida, M. Ziegler, F.F. Lafi, C.T. Michell, C.R. Voolstra, H. Hirt, M.M. Saad
PLoS ONE 13(12): e0208223, (2018)
Deserts, such as those found in Saudi Arabia, are one of the most hostile places for plant growth. However, desert plants are able to impact their surrounding microbial community and select beneficial microbes that promote their growth under these extreme conditions. In this study, we examined the soil, rhizosphere and endosphere bacterial communities of four native desert plants Tribulus terrestris, Zygophyllum simplex, Panicum turgidum and Euphorbia granulata from the Southwest (Jizan region), two of which were also found in the Midwest (Al Wahbah area) of Saudi Arabia. While the rhizosphere bacterial community mostly resembled that of the highly different surrounding soils, the endosphere composition was strongly correlated with its host plant phylogeny. In order to assess whether any of the native bacterial endophytes might have a role in plant growth under extreme conditions, we analyzed the properties of 116 cultured bacterial isolates that represent members of the phyla Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria and Firmicutes. Our analysis shows that different strains have highly different biochemical properties with respect to nutrient acquisition, hormone production and growth under stress conditions. More importantly, eleven of the isolated strains could confer salinity stress tolerance to the experimental model plant Arabidopsis thaliana suggesting some of these plant-associated bacteria might be useful for improving crop desert agriculture.