Braga et al.33 (FAPESP 2013/22845-2) have recently demonstrated the impact of earthworms on the taxonomic profile of the microbial community in sugarcane rhizosphere. Bacterial growth was stimulated, and Alphaproteobacteria, Opitutae, Bacilli, Methanopyri, Thermomicrobia, and Betaproteobacteria responded to the occurrence of earthworms. Earthworms may be beneficial to plants. However, to our knowledge, no mechanism for this effect in the rhizosphere has been resolved. To address this matter, we propose a joint project between the Laboratory of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) and the Department of Ecological Microbiology at the University of Bayreuth (Germany). Under the joint supervision of Prof. Dr. Siu M Tsai and Prof. Dr. Harold L Drake, we will address the hypothesis that earthworms provide beneficial functions in sugarcane rhizosphere. We propose that activities of earthworms select for different bacterial subgroups in the rhizosphere. A 13CO2-SIP (stable isotope probing) experiment (both with and without earthworms) will be used to test the hypothesis. Metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analyses will resolve the taxonomic and functional differences of the microbial community relative to the presence and absence of earthworms. Bacterial abundance (16S rRNA qPCR) will be determined, and nifH, ipdC, nirK, pqqC, and hcnBC will be targeted in phylogenic analyses.
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