The phyllosphere – the aerial parts of plants – is an important microbial habitat that is home to diverse microbial communities. The spatial organization of bacterial cells on leaf surfaces is non-random, and correlates with leaf microscopic features. Yet, the role of microscale interactions between bacterial cells therein is not well understood. Here, we ask how interactions between immigrant bacteria and resident microbiota affect the spatial organization of the combined community. By means of live imaging in a simplified in vitro system, we studied the spatial organization, at the micrometer scale, of the biocontrol agent Pseudomonas fluorescens A506 and the plant pathogen P. syringae B728a when introduced to pear and bean leaf microbiota (the corresponding native plants of these strains). We found significant co-localization of immigrant and resident microbial cells at distances of a few micrometers, for both strains. Interestingly, this co-localization was in part due to preferential attachment of microbiota cells near newly formed P. fluorescens aggregates. Our results indicate that two-way immigrant bacteria – resident microbiota interactions affect the microscale spatial organization of leaf microbiota, and possibly that of other surface-related microbial communities.
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© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to International Society for Microbial Ecology.