Microbial rhodopsins on leaf surfaces of terrestrial plants

Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, Omri M. Finkel, Fabian Glaser, Itai Sharon, Ron Schneider, Anton F. Post, John L. Spudich, Christian von Mering, Julia A. Vorholt, David Iluz, Oded Béjà*, Shimshon Belkin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


The above-ground surfaces of terrestrial plants, the phyllosphere, comprise the main interface between the terrestrial biosphere and solar radiation. It is estimated to host up to 10 26 microbial cells that may intercept part of the photon flux impinging on the leaves. Based on 454-pyrosequencing-generated metagenome data, we report on the existence of diverse microbial rhodopsins in five distinct phyllospheres from tamarisk (Tamarix nilotica), soybean (Glycine max), Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), clover (Trifolium repens) and rice (Oryza sativa). Our findings, for the first time describing microbial rhodopsins from non-aquatic habitats, point towards the potential coexistence of microbial rhodopsin-based phototrophy and plant chlorophyll-based photosynthesis, with the different pigments absorbing non-overlapping fractions of the light spectrum.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)140-146
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
New Investigator Salary Award (No. MSH?130177) from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and an Early Researcher Award (No. ER14-10-185) from the Province of Ontario (Dr. Ruocco).


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