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Host Selection of Symbiotic Cyanobacteria in 31 Species of the Australian Cycad Genus: Macrozamia (Zamiaceae)

June 2010 , Volume 23 , Number  6
Pages  811 - 822

Michelle M. Gehringer,1 Jasper J. L. Pengelly,1 William S. Cuddy,1 Claus Fieker,2 Paul I. Forster,3 and Brett A. Neilan1

1School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; 2School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia; 3Queensland Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia

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Accepted 16 February 2010.

The nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium Nostoc is a commonly occurring terrestrial and aquatic cyanobacterium often found in symbiosis with a wide range of plant, algal, and fungal species. We investigated the diversity of cyanobacterial species occurring within the coralloid roots of different Macrozamia cycad species at diverse locations throughout Australia. In all, 74 coralloid root samples were processed and 56 endosymbiotic cyanobacteria were cultured. DNA was isolated from unialgal cultures and a segment of the 16S rRNA gene was amplified and sequenced. Microscopic analysis was performed on representative isolates. Twenty-two cyanobacterial species were identified, comprising mostly Nostoc spp. and a Calothrix sp. No correlation was observed between a cycad species and its resident cyanobiont species. The predominant cyanobacterium isolated from 18 root samples occurred over a diverse range of environmental conditions and within 14 different Macrozamia spp. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that endosymbionts were not restricted to previously described terrestrial species. An isolate clustering with Nostoc PCC7120, an aquatic strain, was identified. This is the first comprehensive study to identify the endosymbionts within a cycad genus using samples obtained from their natural habitats. These results indicate that there is negligible host specialization of cyanobacterial endosymbionts within the cycad genus Macrozamia in the wild.

© 2010 The American Phytopathological Society