Image_2_Recognizing Patterns: Spatial Analysis of Observed Microbial Colonization on Root Surfaces.tif
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Root surfaces are major sites of interactions between plants and associated microorganisms. Here, plants and microbes communicate via signaling molecules, compete for nutrients, and release substrates that may have beneficial or harmful effects on each other. Whilst the body of knowledge on the abundance and diversity of microbial communities at root-soil interfaces is now substantial, information on their spatial distribution at the microscale is still scarce. In this study, a standardized method for recognizing and analyzing microbial cell distributions on root surfaces is presented. Fluorescence microscopy was combined with automated image analysis and spatial statistics to explore the distribution of bacterial colonization patterns on rhizoplanes of rice roots. To test and evaluate the presented approach, a gnotobiotic experiment was performed using a potential nitrogen-fixing bacterial strain in combination with roots of wetland rice. The automated analysis procedure resulted in reliable spatial data of bacterial cells colonizing the rhizoplane. Among all replicate roots, the analysis revealed an increasing density of bacterial cells from the root tip to the region of root cell maturation. Moreover, bacterial cells showed significant spatial clustering and tended to be located around plant root cell borders. The quantitative data suggest that the structure of the root surface plays a major role in bacterial colonization patterns. Possible adaptations of the presented approach for future studies are discussed along with potential pitfalls such as inaccurate imaging. Our results demonstrate that standardized recognition and statistical evaluation of microbial colonization on root surfaces holds the potential to increase our understanding of microbial associations with roots and of the underlying ecological interactions.
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