Persistence of Escherichia coli in the microbiomes of red Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa cv. ‘Outredgeous’) and mizuna mustard (Brassica rapa var. japonica) - does seed sanitization matter?

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Abstract

Background: Seed sanitization via chemical processes removes/reduces microbes from the external surfaces of the seed and thereby could have an impact on the plants’ health or productivity. To determine the impact of seed sanitization on the plants’ microbiome and pathogen persistence, sanitized and unsanitized seeds from two leafy green crops, red Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa cv. ‘Outredgeous’) and mizuna mustard (Brassica rapa var. japonica) were exposed to Escherichia coli and grown in controlled environment growth chambers simulating environmental conditions aboard the International Space Station. Plants were harvested at four intervals from 7 days post-germination to maturity. The bacterial communities of leaf and root were investigated using the 16S rRNA sequencing while quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and heterotrophic plate counts were used to reveal the persistence of E. coli. Result: E. coli was detectable for longer periods of time in plants from sanitized versus unsanitized seeds and was identified in root tissue more frequently than in leaf tissue. 16S rRNA sequencing showed dynamic changes in the abundance of members of the phylum Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes in leaf and root samples of both leafy crops. We observed minimal changes in the microbial diversity of lettuce or mizuna leaf tissue with time or between sanitized and unsanitized seeds. Beta-diversity showed that time had more of an influence on all samples versus the E. coli treatment. Conclusion: Our results indicated that the seed surface sanitization, a current requirement for sending seeds to space, could influence the microbiome. Insight into the changes in the crop microbiomes could lead to healthier plants and safer food supplementation.

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Dixit, A. R., Khodadad, C. L. M., Hummerick, M. E., Spern, C. J., Spencer, L. S. E., Fischer, J. A., … Romeyn, M. W. (2021). Persistence of Escherichia coli in the microbiomes of red Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa cv. ‘Outredgeous’) and mizuna mustard (Brassica rapa var. japonica) - does seed sanitization matter? BMC Microbiology, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12866-021-02345-5

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