Temporal metabolite responsiveness of microbiota in the tea plant phyllosphere promotes continuous suppression of fungal pathogens

Ping Xu, Xiaoyan Fan, Yuxiao Mao, Haiyan Cheng, Anan Xu, Wanyi Lai, Tianxing Lv, Yang Hu, Yanxia Nie, Xuxia Zheng, Qing Meng, Yuefei Wang, Tomislav Cernava*, Mengcen Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: A broad spectrum of rhizosphere bacteria and fungi were shown to play a central role for health, fitness and productivity of their host plants. However, implications of host metabolism on microbiota assembly in the phyllosphere and potential consequences for holobiont functioning were sparsely addressed. Previous observations indicated that tea plants might reduce disease occurrence in various forests located in their proximity; the underlying mechanisms and potential implications of the phyllosphere microbiota remained elusive. Objectives: This study aimed at deciphering microbiome assembly in the tea plant phyllosphere throughout shoot development as well as elucidating potential implications of host metabolites in this process. The main focus was to explore hidden interconnections between the homeostasis of the phyllosphere microbiome and resistance to fungal pathogens. Methods: Profiling of host metabolites and microbiome analyses based on high-throughput sequencing were integrated to identify drivers of microbiome assembly throughout shoot development in the phyllosphere of tea plants. This was complemented by tracking of beneficial microorganisms in all compartments of the plant. Synthetic assemblages (SynAss), bioassays and field surveys were implemented to verify functioning of the phyllosphere microbiota. Results: Theophylline and epigallocatechin gallate, two prevalent metabolites at the early and late shoot development stage respectively, were identified as the main drivers of microbial community assembly. Flavobacterium and Myriangium were distinct microbial responders at the early stage, while Parabacteroides and Mortierella were more enriched at the late stage. Reconstructed, stage-specific SynAss suppressed various tree phytopathogens by 13.0%-69.3% in vitro and reduced disease incidence by 8.24%-41.3% in vivo. Conclusion: The findings indicate that a functional phyllosphere microbiota was assembled along with development-specific metabolites in tea plants, which continuously suppressed prevalent fungal pathogens. The insights gained into the temporally resolved metabolite response of the tea plant microbiota could provide novel solutions for disease management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-60
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Advanced Research
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Co-adaption
  • Disease suppression
  • Microbiome assembly
  • Phyllosphere microbiota
  • Plant metabolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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