Transgenic banana plants expressing Xanthomonas wilt resistance genes revealed a stable non-target bacterial colonization structure
Africa is among the continents where the battle over genetically modified crops is currently being played out. The impact of GM in Africa could potentially be very positive. In Uganda, researchers have developed transgenic banana lines resistant to banana Xanthomonas wilt. The transgenic lines expressing hrap and pflp can provide a timely solution to the pandemic. However, the impact of the transgenes expression on non-target microorganisms has not yet been investigated. To study this effect, transgenic and control lines were grown under field conditions and their associated microbiome was investigated by 16S rRNA gene profiling combining amplicon sequencing and molecular fingerprinting. Three years after sucker planting, no statistically significant differences between transgenic lines and their non-modified predecessors were detected for their associated bacterial communities. The overall gammaproteobacterial rhizosphere microbiome was highly dominated by Xanthomonadales, while Pseudomonadales and Enterobacteriales were accumulated in the pseudostem. Shannon indices revealed much higher diversity in the rhizosphere than in the pseudostem endosphere. However, the expression of the transgenes did not result in changes in the diversity of Gammaproteobacteria, the closest relatives of the target pathogen. In this field experiment, the expression of the resistance genes appears to have no consequences for non-target rhizobacteria and endophytes.