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Wednesday, April 22 • 11:00am - 1:00pm
Culture-Based Analysis of Bacterial Communities within Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea) of Western NC

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The ability of the carnivorous pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) to digest insect prey depends, in part, on plant-associated microbial communities. However, few studies have addressed diversity, distribution, and function of Sarracenia-associated bacterial populations. This study leverages natural populations of Sarracenia purpurea at two geographically distinct sites in Western North Carolina. Liquid from within the pitcher was collected aseptically, and culturable bacteria were isolated by plating on solid media. Non-selective medium was used to allow isolation of most environmental oligotrophic bacterial, while a selective medium was used to specifically enrich for antibiotic-producing members of the phylum Actinobacteria. Culturable bacteria were identified by PCR amplification and DNA sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, confirming that microbial richness within the pitcher is high. Data indicate that bacterial communities differ from plant to plant, even within the same geographic location suggesting that initial colonization may occur at random from the environment. However, specific bacterial phylogroups were present in all pitchers sampled, suggesting that Sarracenia may rely on specific microbial associations. Ongoing work will assess the functional diversity of Sarracenia-associated bacteria, including ecologically relevant traits such as motility and biofilm formation which aid in plant colonization, exoenzyme production which may aid in prey digestion, and antibiotic production which may aid in bacterial competition in the resource-limited environment within the pitcher.


Wednesday April 22, 2015 11:00am - 1:00pm PDT
Wilma Sherril Center Concourse