Elevated carbon dioxide reduces a common soybean leaf endophyte

Natalie Christian, Baldemar Espino Basurto, Amber Toussaint, Xinyan Xu, Elizabeth A. Ainsworth, Posy E. Busby, Katy D. Heath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments have elucidated how climate change affects plant physiology and production. However, we lack a predictive understanding of how climate change alters interactions between plants and endophytes, critical microbial mediators of plant physiology and ecology. We leveraged the SoyFACE facility to examine how elevated [CO2] affected soybean (Glycine max) leaf endophyte communities in the field. Endophyte community composition changed under elevated [CO2], including a decrease in the abundance of a common endophyte, Methylobacterium sp. Moreover, Methylobacterium abundance was negatively correlated with co-occurring fungal endophytes. We then assessed how Methylobacterium affected the growth of co-occurring endophytic fungi in vitro. Methylobacterium antagonized most co-occurring fungal endophytes in vitro, particularly when it was more established in culture before fungal introduction. Variation in fungal response to Methylobacterium within a single fungal operational taxonomic unit (OTU) was comparable to inter-OTU variation. Finally, fungi isolated from elevated vs. ambient [CO2] plots differed in colony growth and response to Methylobacterium, suggesting that increasing [CO2] may affect fungal traits and interactions within the microbiome. By combining in situ and in vitro studies, we show that elevated [CO2] decreases the abundance of a common bacterial endophyte that interacts strongly with co-occurring fungal endophytes. We suggest that endophyte responses to global climate change will have important but largely unexplored implications for both agricultural and natural systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4154-4168
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • FACE (free-air CO enrichment)
  • Glycine max (soybean)
  • Methylobacterium
  • endophytes
  • fungi
  • in vitro assays
  • microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Chemistry


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