A first insight into the structure and function of rhizosphere microbiota in Antarctic plants using shotgun metagenomic

  • Marco A. Molina-MontenegroEmail author
  • Gabriel I. Ballesteros
  • Eduardo Castro-Nallar
  • Claudio Meneses
  • Jorge Gallardo-Cerda
  • Cristian Torres-Díaz
Original Paper


Antarctic vascular plants such as Deschampsia antarctica (Da) could generate more suitable micro-environmental conditions for the establishment of other plants like Colobanthus quitensis (Cq). Although positive plant–plant interactions have been shown to contribute to plant performance and establishment, little is known about how microorganisms might modulate those interactions, particularly in stressful environmental conditions. Several reports have focused on the possible ecological roles of microorganisms on vascular plants, but if rhizospheric microorganisms can impact positive interactions among Antarctic plants has been seldom studied. Here, we assessed the physical–chemical characteristics of rhizospheric soils from Cq growing alone or associated with Da (Cq + Da). In addition, we compared the rhizosphere microbiomes associated with Cq, either growing alone or associated with Da (Cq + Da), using a shotgun metagenomic DNA sequencing approach and using eggNOG for comparative and functional metagenomics. Overall, there were no differences among rhizospheric soils in terms of physical–chemical characteristics. On the other hand, our results show significant differences in terms of taxonomic diversity between rhizospheric soils. Functional annotation and pathway analysis showed that microorganisms from rhizospheric soil samples also have significant differences in gene abundance associated with several functional categories related to environmental tolerance and in metabolic pathways linked to osmotic stress, among others. Overall, this study provides foundational information which will allow to explore the biological impact of the rhizobiome and its functional mechanisms and molecular pathways on plant performance and help explain the concerted strategy deployed by Cq to inhabit and cope with the harsh conditions prevailing in Antarctica.


Functional symbiosis Vascular antarctic plants Rhizobiome Gene ontology 



We thank Instituto Antártico Chileno (INACH) and the Chilean Navy for logistics and field support. All sampling was performed in accordance to international permits and authorizations given by INACH. ECN was funded by “CONICYT-FONDECYT de iniciación en la investigación 11160905″. MAM-M was funded by FONDECYT 1181034 and PII20150126. We would like to thank The George Washington University’s High-Performance Computing Facility, Colonial-One, for providing data storage, support, and computing power for genomic analyses ( All supplementary material is available at

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

This study has been conducted in absence of conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco A. Molina-Montenegro
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Gabriel I. Ballesteros
    • 1
  • Eduardo Castro-Nallar
    • 4
  • Claudio Meneses
    • 5
    • 6
  • Jorge Gallardo-Cerda
    • 1
  • Cristian Torres-Díaz
    • 7
  1. 1.Centro de Ecología Molecular y Funcional, Instituto de Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad de TalcaTalcaChile
  2. 2.Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), Facultad de Ciencias del MarUniversidad Católica del NorteCoquimboChile
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación de Estudios Avanzados del MauleUniversidad Católica del MauleTalcaChile
  4. 4.Centro de Bioinformática y Biología Integrativa, Facultad de Ciencias de la VidaUniversidad Andrés BelloSantiagoChile
  5. 5.Centro de Biotecnología Vegetal, Facultad de Ciencias de la VidaUniversidad Andrés BelloSantiagoChile
  6. 6.Center for Genome RegulationFONDAPSantiagoChile
  7. 7.Grupo de Biodiversidad y Cambio Global (GBCG), Departamento de Ciencias BásicasUniversidad del Bío-BíoChillánChile

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