Association analyses of host genetics, root-colonizing microbes, and plant phenotypes under different nitrogen conditions in maize

Michael A. Meier, Gen Xu, Martha G. Lopez-Guerrero, Guangyong Li, Christine Smith, Brandi Sigmon, Joshua R. Herr, James R. Alfano, Yufeng Ge, James C. Schnable, Jinliang Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The root-associated microbiome (rhizobiome) affects plant health, stress tolerance, and nutrient use efficiency. However, it remains unclear to what extent the composition of the rhizobiome is governed by intraspecific variation in host plant genetics in the field and the degree to which host plant selection can reshape the composition of the rhizobiome. Here we quantify the rhizosphere microbial communities associated with a replicated diversity panel of 230 maize (Zea mays L.) genotypes grown in agronomically relevant conditions under high N (+N) and low N (-N) treatments. We analyze the maize rhizobiome in terms of 150 abundant and consistently reproducible microbial groups and we show that the abundance of many root-associated microbes is explainable by natural genetic variation in the host plant, with a greater proportion of microbial variance attributable to plant genetic variation in-N conditions. Population genetic approaches identify signatures of purifying selection in the maize genome associated with the abundance of several groups of microbes in the maize rhizobiome. Genome-wide association study was conducted using the abundance of microbial groups as rhizobiome traits, and identified n = 622 plant loci that are linked to the abundance of n = 104 microbial groups in the maize rhizosphere. In 62/104 cases, which is more than expected by chance, the abundance of these same microbial groups was correlated with variation in plant vigor indicators derived from high throughput phenotyping of the same field experiment. We provide comprehensive datasets about the three-way interaction of host genetics, microbe abundance, and plant performance under two N treatments to facilitate targeted experiments towards harnessing the full potential of root-associated microbial symbionts in maize production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere75790
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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