Seed-borne bacteria are a unique group of microorganisms capable of maintaining stable populations within plant tissues and seeds. These bacteria may benefit their host from germination to maturation and are of great interest for basic and applied plant-microbe interaction studies. Furthermore, many such beneficial bacteria present in wild plant species are missing in their respective congeneric domesticated forms. The objectives of this study were to explore the bacterial communities within the seeds of wild Cicer species and to select beneficial bacteria which could be used to improve production of domesticated chickpea (C. arietinum). We analyzed the composition of seed-borne bacteria of chickpea (Cicer spp.), comparing wild and domesticated species from different geographic locations. Subsequently, we isolated the dominant and prevalent seed-borne bacteria from wild Cicer judaicum and assessed their ability to colonize and affect the growth of domesticated chickpea and other legume crops. The composition and structure of seed-borne bacteria, determined by amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, differed between wild and domesticated chickpea and varied among geographic locations. The genus Burkholderia dominated samples from domesticated chickpea at all examined sites, while Bacillus or Sphingomonas dominated cultures isolated from wild C. judaicum, dependent on geographic location. A particular Bacillus strain, Bacillus sp. CJ, representing the most prevalent bacterium in wild C. judaicum, was further isolated. Bacillus sp. CJ, applied by seed coating, successfully inhabited domesticated chickpea plants and improved plant growth parameters. These results demonstrate the potential for reconstructing the microbiota of crop plants using the wild microbiota reservoir. IMPORTANCE Chickpea (garbanzo bean, hummus, Cicer arietinum) representing the third legume crop produced globally. As is the case for many other domesticated crops, the adaptation and resistance of chickpea to biotic and abiotic stresses is inferior compared to that of their wild progenitors and relatives. Re-establishing desirable characteristics from wild to domesticated species may be achieved by reconstructing beneficial microbiota. In this study, we examined the seed-associated microbiota of both wild and domesticated chickpea and applied isolated beneficial bacteria originating from wild Cicer judaicum to domesticated chickpea by seed coating. This isolate, Bacillus sp. CJ, was successfully established in the crop and enhanced its growth, demonstrating effective and efficient manipulation of the chickpea microbiota as a potential model for future application in other crop plants.
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- Cicer spp
- domesticated plants
- seed-borne bacteria