• Annual replication is essential in evaluating the response of the soil microbiome to the genetic modification of maize in different biogeographical regions

      Szoboszlay, Márton; Näther, Astrid; Mullins, Ewen; Tebbe, Christoph C.; European Union; 289706 (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-12-17)
      The importance of geographic location and annual variation on the detection of differences in the rhizomicrobiome caused by the genetic modification of maize (Bt-maize, event MON810) was evaluated at experimental field sites across Europe including Sweden, Denmark, Slovakia and Spain. DNA of the rhizomicrobiome was collected at the maize flowering stage in three consecutive years and analyzed for the abundance and diversity of PCR-amplified structural genes of Bacteria, Archaea and Fungi, and functional genes for bacterial nitrite reductases (nirS, nirK). The nirK genes were always more abundant than nirS. Maize MON810 did not significantly alter the abundance of any microbial genetic marker, except for sporadically detected differences at individual sites and years. In contrast, annual variation between sites was often significant and variable depending on the targeted markers. Distinct, site-specific microbial communities were detected but the sites in Denmark and Sweden were similar to each other. A significant effect of the genetic modification of the plant on the community structure in the rhizosphere was detected among the nirK denitrifiers at the Slovakian site in only one year. However, most nirK sequences with opposite response were from the same or related source organisms suggesting that the transient differences in community structure did not translate to the functional level. Our results show a lack of effect of the genetic modification of maize on the rhizosphere microbiome that would be stable and consistent over multiple years. This demonstrates the importance of considering annual variability in assessing environmental effects of genetically modified crops.