Symbiotic relationships between legumes and nitrogen-fixing soil micro-organisms are of ecological importance in plant communities worldwide. For example, nutrient-poor Australian soils are often dominated by shrubby legumes (e.g. species of Acacia). However, relatively few studies have quantified patterns of diversity, host-specificity and effectiveness of these ecologically important plant–microbe interactions. In this study, 16S rRNA gene sequence and PCR-RFLP analyses were used to examine bacterial strains isolated from the root nodules of two widespread south-eastern Australian legumes, Acacia salicina and Acacia stenophylla, across nearly 60 sites. The results showed that there was extensive genetic diversity in microbial populations, including a broad range of novel genomic species. While previous studies have suggested that most native Australian legumes nodulate primarily with species of the genus Bradyrhizobium, our results indicate significant associations with members of other root-nodule-forming bacterial genera, including Rhizobium, Ensifer, Mesorhizobium, Burkholderia, Phyllobacterium and Devosia. Genetic analyses also revealed a diverse suite of non-nodulating bacterial endophytes, only a subset of which have been previously recorded. Although the ecological roles of these endosymbionts are not well understood, they may play both direct and indirect roles in promoting plant growth, nodulation and disease suppression.
In order to investigate the genetic diversity of rhizobia associated with various exotic and invasive species in tropical mainland China, 116 bacterial isolates were obtained from Mimosa root nodules collected from Sishuangbanna and Yuanjiang districts of Yunnan province. Isolated rhizobia were characterized by RFLP analysis of 16S rRNA genes, SDS-PAGE of whole-cell proteins and BOX-PCR. Most of the isolated strains were identified as β-rhizobia belonging to diverse populations of Burkholderia and Cupriavidus, and the phylogenetic relationships of their 16S rRNA gene sequences showed that they were closely related to one of four β-rhizobia species: Burkholderia phymatum, B. mimosarum, B. caribensis or Cupriavidus taiwanensis. Additionally, among the 116 isolates, 53 different whole-cell SDS-PAGE profiles and 30 distinct BOX-PCR genotypic patterns were detected, which demonstrated the genetic and phenotypic diversity found within these Burkholderia and Cupriavidus strains. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report that β-rhizobia are extant and possibly widespread on the Chinese mainland and nodulate easily with Mimosa plants. We also find it especially interesting that this appears to be the first report from mainland China of Cupriavidus symbionts of Mimosa. These records enrich our knowledge and understanding of the geographical distribution and diversity of these bacteria.