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Methylobacterium species are abundant colonizers of the phyllosphere due to the availability of methanol, a waste product of pectin metabolism during plant cell division. The phyllosphere is an extreme environment, with a landscape that is heterogeneous and continuously changing as the plant grows and is exposed to high levels of ultraviolet irradiation. Geographically, New Zealand (NZ) has been isolated for over a million years, has a biologically diverse flora, and is considered a biodiversity hotspot, with most native plants being endemic. We therefore hypothesize that the phyllosphere of NZ native plants harbor diverse groups of Methylobacterium species. Leaf imprinting using methanol-supplemented agar medium was used to isolate bacteria, and diversity was determined using ARDRA and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Methylobacterium species were successfully isolated from the phyllosphere of 18 of the 20 native NZ plant species in this study, and six different species were identified: M. marchantiae, M. mesophilicum, M. adhaesivum, M. komagatae, M. extorquens, and M. phyllosphaerae. Other α, β, and γ-Proteobacteria, Actinomycetes, Bacteroidetes, and Firmicutes were also isolated, highlighting the presence of other potentially novel methanol utilizers within this ecosystem. This study identified that Methylobacterium are abundant members of the NZ phyllosphere, with species diversity and composition dependent on plant species.
Oxford University Press
© 2023 The Authors. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.