Multigenerational inheritance drives symbiotic interactions of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis with its plant host

Omri Gilhar, Liat Rahamim Ben-Navi, Tsviya Olender, Asaph Aharoni, Jonathan Friedman, Ilana Kolodkin-Gal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacillus subtilis is a beneficial bacterium that supports plant growth and protects plants from bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Using a simplified system of B. subtilis and Arabidopsis thaliana interactions, we studied the fitness and transcriptome of bacteria detached from the root over generations of growth in LB medium. We found that bacteria previously associated with the root or exposed to its secretions had greater stress tolerance and were more competitive in root colonization than bacteria not previously exposed to the root. Furthermore, our transcriptome results provide evidence that plant secretions induce a microbial stress response and fundamentally alter signaling by the cyclic nucleotide c-di-AMP, a signature maintained by their descendants. The changes in cellular physiology due to exposure to plant exudates were multigenerational, as they allowed not only the bacterial cells that colonized a new plant but also their descendants to have an advance over naive competitors of the same species, while the overall plasticity of gene expression and rapid adaptation were maintained. These changes were hereditary but not permanent. Our work demonstrates a bacterial memory manifested by multigenerational reversible adaptation to plant hosts in the form of activation of the stressosome, which confers an advantage to symbiotic bacteria during competition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127814
JournalMicrobiological Research
StatePublished - Sep 2024

Bibliographical note

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© 2024 Elsevier GmbH


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Fitness
  • Gene regulation
  • Plant-bacteria interactions
  • Stress response


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