Endophytes of Grapevine Flowers, Berries, and Seeds: Identification of Cultivable Bacteria, Comparison with Other Plant Parts, and Visualization of Niches of Colonization
Endophytic bacteria can colonize various plants and organs. However, endophytes colonizing plant reproductive organs have been rarely analyzed. In this study, endophytes colonizing flowers as well as berries and seeds of grapevine plants grown under natural conditions were investigated by cultivation as well as by fluorescence in situ hybridization. For comparison, bacteria were additionally isolated from other plant parts and the rhizosphere and characterized. Flowers, fruits, and seeds hosted various endophytic bacteria. Some taxa were specifically isolated from plant reproductive organs, whereas others were also detected in the rhizosphere, endorhiza or grape inflo/infructescence stalk at the flowering or berry harvest stage. Microscopic analysis by fluorescence in situ hybridization of resin-embedded samples confirmed the presence of the isolated taxa in plant reproductive organs and enabled us to localize them within the plant. Gammaproteobacteria (including Pseudomonas spp.) and Firmicutes (including Bacillus spp.) were visualized inside the epidermis and xylem of ovary and/or inside flower ovules. Firmicutes, mainly Bacillus spp. were additionally visualized inside berries, in the intercellular spaces of pulp cells and/or xylem of pulp, but also along some cell walls inside parts of seeds. Analysis of cultivable bacteria as well as microscopic results indicated that certain endophytic bacteria can colonize flowers, berries, or seeds. Our results also indicated that some specific taxa may not only derive from the root environment but also from other sources such as the anthosphere.