Biogeographical patterns of legume-nodulating Burkholderia spp.: from African fynbos to continental scales.
Rhizobia of the genus Burkholderia have large-scale distribution ranges and are usually associated with South African papilionoid and South American mimosoid legumes, yet little is known about their genetic structuring at either local or global geographic scales. To understand variation at different spatial scales, from individual legumes in the fynbos (South Africa) to a global context, we analyzed chromosomal (16S rRNA, recA) and symbiosis (nifH, nodA, nodC) gene sequences. We showed that the global diversity of nodulation genes is generally grouped according to the South African papilionoid or South American mimosoid subfamilies, whereas chromosomal sequence data were unrelated to biogeography. While nodulation genes are structured on a continental scale, a geographic or host-specific distribution pattern was not detected in the fynbos region. In host range experiments, symbiotic promiscuity of Burkholderia tuberum STM678T and B. phymatum STM815T was discovered in selected fynbos species. Finally, a greenhouse experiment was undertaken to assess the ability of mimosoid (Mimosa pudica) and papilionoid (Dipogon lignosus, Indigofera filifolia, Macroptilium atropurpureum, and Podalyria calyptrata) species to nodulate in South African (fynbos) and Malawian (savanna) soils. While the Burkholderia-philous fynbos legumes (D. lignosus, I. filifolia, and P. calyptrata) nodulated only in their native soils, the invasive neotropical species M. pudica did not develop nodules in the African soils. The fynbos soil, notably rich in Burkholderia, seems to retain nodulation genes compatible with the local papilionoid legume flora but is incapable of nodulating mimosoid legumes that have their center of diversity in South America.