Variation in Frankia populations of the Elaeagnus host infection group in nodules of six host plant species after inoculation with soil.
The potential role of host plant species in the selection of symbiotic, nitrogen-fixing Frankia strains belonging to the Elaeagnus host infection group was assessed in bioassays with two Morella, three Elaeagnus, and one Shepherdia species as capture plants, inoculated with soil slurries made with soil collected from a mixed pine/grassland area in central Wisconsin, USA. Comparative sequence analysis of nifH gene fragments amplified from homogenates of at least 20 individual lobes of root nodules harvested from capture plants of each species confirmed the more promiscuous character of Morella cerifera and Morella pensylvanica that formed nodules with frankiae of the Alnus and the Elaeagnus host infection groups, while frankiae in nodules formed on Elaeagnus umbellata, Elaeagnus angustifolia, Elaeagnus commutata, and Shepherdia argentea generally belonged to the Elaeagnus host infection group. Diversity of frankiae of the Elaeagnus host infection groups was larger in nodules on both Morella species than in nodules formed on the other plant species. None of the plants, however, captured the entire diversity of nodule-forming frankiae. The distribution of clusters of Frankia populations and their abundance in nodules was unique for each of the plant species, with only one cluster being ubiquitous and most abundant while the remaining clusters were only present in nodules of one (six clusters) or two (two clusters) host plant species. These results demonstrate large effects of the host plant species in the selection of Frankia strains from soil for potential nodule formation and thus the significant effect of the choice of capture plant species in bioassays on diversity estimates in soil.