Parallel genetic adaptation of Bacillus subtilis to different plant species

Guohai Hu, Yue Wang, Christopher Blake, Mathilde Nordgaard, Xin Liu, Bo Wang*, Ákos T. Kovács*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria benefit plants by stimulating their growth or protecting them against phytopathogens. Rhizobacteria must colonize and persist on plant roots to exert their benefits. However, little is known regarding the processes by which rhizobacteria adapt to different plant species, or behave under alternating host plant regimes. Here, we used experimental evolution and whole-population whole-genome sequencing to analyse how Bacillus subtilis evolves on Arabidopsis thaliana and tomato seedlings, and under an alternating host plant regime, in a static hydroponic setup. We observed parallel evolution across multiple levels of biological organization in all conditions, which was greatest for the two heterogeneous, multi-resource, spatially structured environments at the genetic level. Species-specific adaptation at the genetic level was also observed, possibly caused by the selection stress imposed by different host plants. Furthermore, a trade-off between motility and biofilm development was supported by mutational changes in motility- and biofilm-related genes. Finally, we identified several condition-specific and common targeted genes in different environments by comparing three different B. subtilis biofilm adaptation settings. The results demonstrate a common evolutionary pattern when B. subtilis is adapting to the plant rhizosphere in similar conditions, and reveal differences in genetic mechanisms between different host plants. These findings will likely support strain improvements for sustainable agriculture.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobial Genomics
Issue number7
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Adaption
  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Experimental evolution
  • Plant-bacteria interaction
  • Trade-off


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