A signature of tree health? Shifts in the microbiome and the ecological drivers of horse chestnut bleeding canker disease

Britt Koskella, Sean Meaden, William J. Crowther, Roosa Leimu, C. Jessica E. Metcalf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Host susceptibility to pathogens can be shaped by genetic, ecological, and evolutionary factors. The ability to predict the spread of disease therefore requires an integrated understanding of these factors, including effects of pests on pathogen growth and competition between pathogens and commensal microbiota for host resources. We examined interactions between the leaf-mining moth Cameraria ohridella, the bacterial causal agent of bleeding canker disease Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi, and the bark-associated microbiota of horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) trees. Through surveys of > 900 trees from 60 sites in the UK, we tested for ecological or life history predictors of leaf miner infestation, bleeding canker, or coinfection. Using culture-independent sequencing, we then compared the bark microbiomes from 46 trees to measure the association between microbiome composition and key ecological variables, including the severity of disease. Both pest and pathogen were found to respond to tree characteristics, but neither explained damage inflicted by the other. However, we found a clear loss of microbial diversity and associated shift in microbiome composition of trees as a function of disease. These results show a link between bark-associated microbiota and tree health that introduces the intriguing possibility that tree microbiota play key roles in the spread of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)737-746
Number of pages10
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


  • Cameraria ohridella
  • Pseudomonas syringae
  • bleeding canker
  • leaf miner
  • microbiome
  • pest–pathogen interactions
  • tree health


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