Image_3_Leaf and Root Endospheres Harbor Lower Fungal Diversity and Less Complex Fungal Co-occurrence Patterns Than Rhizosphere.TIF

Plant-associated microbiomes are key determinants of host-plant fitness, productivity, and function. However, compared to bacterial community, we still lack fundamental knowledge concerning the variation in the fungal microbiome at the plant niche level. In this study, we quantified the fungal communities in the rhizosphere soil, as well as leaf and root endosphere compartments of a subtropical island shrub, Mussaenda kwangtungensis, using high-throughput DNA sequencing. We found that fungal microbiomes varied significantly across different plant compartments. Rhizosphere soil exhibited the highest level of fungal diversity, whereas the lowest level was found in the leaf endosphere. Further, the fungal communities inhabiting the root endosphere shared a greater proportion of fungal operational taxonomic units (OTUs) with rhizosphere communities than with leaf fungal endophyte communities, despite significant separation in community structure between the two belowground compartments. The fungal co-occurrence networks in the three compartments of M. kwangtungensis showed scale-free features and non-random co-occurrence patterns and matched the topological properties of small-world and evidently modular structure. Additionally, the rhizosphere network was more complex and showed higher centrality and connectedness than the leaf and root endosphere networks. Overall, our findings provide comprehensive insights into the structural variability, niche differentiation, and co-occurrence patterns in the plant associated fungal microbiome.