Wheat seed embryo excision enables the creation of axenic seedlings and Koch's postulates testing of putative bacterial endophytes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Rebekah J. Robinson
  • Bart A. Fraaije
  • Ian M. Clark
  • Penny R. Hirsch
  • Tim H. Mauchline

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Rothamsted Research


Early establishment of endophytes can play a role in pathogen suppression and improve seedling development. One route for establishment of endophytes in seedlings is transmission of bacteria from the parent plant to the seedling via the seed. In wheat seeds, it is not clear whether this transmission route exists, and the identities and location of bacteria within wheat seeds are unknown. We identified bacteria in the wheat (Triticum aestivum) cv. Hereward seed environment using embryo excision to determine the location of the bacterial load. Axenic wheat seedlings obtained with this method were subsequently used to screen a putative endophyte bacterial isolate library for endophytic competency. This absence of bacteria recovered from seeds indicated low bacterial abundance and/or the presence of inhibitors. Diversity of readily culturable bacteria in seeds was low with 8 genera identified, dominated by Erwinia and Paenibacillus. We propose that anatomical restrictions in wheat limit embryo associated vertical transmission, and that bacterial load is carried in the seed coat, crease tissue and endosperm. This finding facilitates the creation of axenic wheat plants to test competency of putative endophytes and also provides a platform for endophyte competition, plant growth, and gene expression studies without an indigenous bacterial background.


Original languageEnglish
Article number25581
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas