Publications by Year


Publications by Authors


Recent Publications

Contact Us

Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology
The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Environment
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Herzl 229
Rehovot 7610001 

Tel: 08-9489219
Fax: 08-9466794


Orevi, T. ; Kashtan, N. Life in a Droplet: Microbial Ecology in Microscopic Surface Wetness. FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY 2021, 12.Abstract
While many natural and artificial surfaces may appear dry, they are in fact covered by thin liquid films and microdroplets invisible to the naked eye known as microscopic surface wetness (MSW). Central to the formation and the retention of MSW are the deliquescent properties of hygroscopic salts that prevent complete drying of wet surfaces or that drive the absorption of water until dissolution when the relative humidity is above a salt-specific level. As salts are ubiquitous, MSW occurs in many microbial habitats, such as soil, rocks, plant leaf, and root surfaces, the built environment, and human and animal skin. While key properties of MSW, including very high salinity and segregation into droplets, greatly affect microbial life therein, it has been scarcely studied, and systematic studies are only in their beginnings. Based on recent findings, we propose that the harsh micro-environment that MSW imposes, which is very different from bulk liquid, affects key aspects of bacterial ecology including survival traits, antibiotic response, competition, motility, communication, and exchange of genetic material. Further research is required to uncover the fundamental principles that govern microbial life and ecology in MSW. Such research will require multidisciplinary science cutting across biology, physics, and chemistry, while incorporating approaches from microbiology, genomics, microscopy, and computational modeling. The results of such research will be critical to understand microbial ecology in vast terrestrial habitats, affecting global biogeochemical cycles, as well as plant, animal, and human health.
Steinberg, S. ; Grinberg, M. ; Beitelman, M. ; Peixoto, J. ; Orevi, T. ; Kashtan, N. Two-way microscale interactions between immigrant bacteria and plant leaf microbiota as revealed by live imaging. ISME JOURNAL 2021, 15, 409-420.Abstract
The phyllosphere - the aerial parts of plants - is an important microbial habitat that is home to diverse microbial communities. The spatial organization of bacterial cells on leaf surfaces is non-random, and correlates with leaf microscopic features. Yet, the role of microscale interactions between bacterial cells therein is not well understood. Here, we ask how interactions between immigrant bacteria and resident microbiota affect the spatial organization of the combined community. By means of live imaging in a simplified in vitro system, we studied the spatial organization, at the micrometer scale, of the biocontrol agentPseudomonas fluorescensA506 and the plant pathogenP. syringaeB728a when introduced to pear and bean leaf microbiota (the corresponding native plants of these strains). We found significant co-localization of immigrant and resident microbial cells at distances of a few micrometers, for both strains. Interestingly, this co-localization was in part due to preferential attachment of microbiota cells near newly formedP. fluorescensaggregates. Our results indicate that two-way immigrant bacteria - resident microbiota interactions affect the microscale spatial organization of leaf microbiota, and possibly that of other surface-related microbial communities.
Beizman-Magen, Y. ; Grinberg, M. ; Orevi, T. ; Kashtan, N. Wet-dry cycles protect surface-colonizing bacteria from major antibiotic classes. ISME JOURNAL 2021.Abstract
Diverse antibiotic compounds are abundant in microbial habitats undergoing recurrent wet-dry cycles, such as soil, root and leaf surfaces, and the built environment. These antibiotics play a central role in microbial warfare and competition, thus affecting population dynamics and the composition of natural microbial communities. Yet, the impact of wet-dry cycles on bacterial response to antibiotics has been scarcely explored. Using the bacterium E. coli as a model organism, we show through a combination of experiments and computational modeling, that wet-dry cycles protect bacteria from beta-lactams. This is due to the combined effect of several mechanisms including tolerance induced by high salt concentrations and slow cell-growth, which are inherently associated with microscopic surface wetness-a hydration state typical to `dry' periods. Moreover, we find evidence for a cross-protection effect, where lethal doses of antibiotic considerably increase bacterial survival during the dry periods. This work focuses on beta-lactams, yet similar protection was observed for additional major antibiotic classes. Our findings shed new light on how we understand bacterial response to antibiotics, with broad implications for population dynamics, interspecies interactions, and the evolution of antibiotic resistance in vast terrestrial microbial habitats.
Tovi, N. ; Orevi, T. ; Grinberg, M. ; Kashtan, N. ; Hadar, Y. ; Minz, D. Pairwise Interactions of Three Related Pseudomonas Species in Plant Roots and Inert Surfaces. FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY 2021, 12.Abstract
Bacteria are social organisms that interact extensively within and between species while responding to external stimuli from their environments. Designing synthetic microbial communities can enable efficient and beneficial microbiome implementation in many areas. However, in order to design an efficient community, one must consider the interactions between their members. Using a reductionist approach, we examined pairwise interactions of three related Pseudomonas species in various microenvironments including plant roots and inert surfaces. Our results show that the step between monoculture and co-culture is already very complex. Monoculture root colonization patterns demonstrate that each isolate occupied a particular location on wheat roots, such as root tip, distance from the tip, or scattered along the root. However, pairwise colonization outcomes on the root did not follow the bacterial behavior in monoculture, suggesting various interaction patterns. In addition, we show that interspecies interactions on a microscale on inert surface take part in co-culture colonization and that the interactions are affected by the presence of root extracts and depend on its source. The understanding of interrelationships on the root may contribute to future attempts to manipulate and improve bacterial colonization and to intervene with root microbiomes to construct and design effective synthetic microbial consortia.
Fedorenko, A. ; Grinberg, M. ; Orevi, T. ; Kashtan, N. Survival of the enveloped bacteriophage Phi6 (a surrogate for SARS-CoV-2) in evaporated saliva microdroplets deposited on glass surfaces. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS 2020, 10.Abstract
Survival of respiratory viral pathogens in expelled saliva microdroplets is central to their transmission, yet the factors that determine survival in such microdroplets are not well understood. Here we combine microscopy imaging with virus viability assays to study survival of three bacteriophages suggested as good models for respiratory pathogens: the enveloped Phi6 (a surrogate for SARS-CoV-2), and the non-enveloped PhiX174 and MS2. We measured virus viability in human saliva microdroplets, SM buffer, and water following deposition on glass surfaces at various relative humidities (RH). Saliva and water microdroplets dried out rapidly, within minutes, at all tested RH levels (23%, 43%, 57%, and 78%), while SM microdroplets remained hydrated at RH >= 57%. Generally, the survival of all three viruses in dry saliva microdroplets was significantly greater than those in SM buffer and water under all RH (except PhiX174 in water under 57% RH survived the best among 3 media). Thus, atmosphere RH and microdroplet hydration state are not sufficient to explain virus survival, indicating that the virus-suspended medium, and association with saliva components in particular, likely play a role in virus survival. Uncovering the exact properties and components that make saliva a favorable environment for the survival of viruses, in particular enveloped ones like Phi6, is thus of great importance for reducing transmission of viral respiratory pathogens including SARS-CoV-2.
Grinberg, M. ; Orevi, T. ; Kashtan, N. Bacterial surface colonization, preferential attachment and fitness under periodic stress. PLoS Computational Biology 2019, 15. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Early bacterial surface colonization is not a random process wherein cells arbitrarily attach to surfaces and grow; but rather, attachment events, movement and cellular interactions induce non-random spatial organization. We have only begun to understand how the apparent self-organization affects the fitness of the population. A key factor contributing to fitness is the tradeoff between solitary-planktonic and aggregated surface-attached biofilm lifestyles. Though planktonic cells typically grow faster, bacteria in aggregates are more resistant to stress such as desiccation, antibiotics and predation. Here we ask if and to what extent informed surface-attachments improve fitness during early surface colonization under periodic stress conditions. We use an individual-based modeling approach to simulate foraging planktonic cells colonizing a surface under alternating wet-dry cycles. Such cycles are common in the largest terrestrial microbial habitats–soil, roots, and leaf surfaces-that are not constantly saturated with water and experience daily periods of desiccation stress. We compared different surface-attachment strategies, and analyzed the emerging spatio-temporal dynamics of surface colonization and population yield as a measure of fitness. We demonstrate that a simple strategy of preferential attachment (PA), biased to dense sites, carries a large fitness advantage over any random attachment across a broad range of environmental conditions–particularly under periodic stress. © 2019 Grinberg et al.
Grinberg, M. ; Orevi, T. ; Steinberg, S. ; Kashtan, N. Bacterial survival in microscopic surface wetness. eLife 2019, 8. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Plant leaves constitute a huge microbial habitat of global importance. How microorganisms survive the dry daytime on leaves and avoid desiccation is not well understood. There is evidence that microscopic surface wetness in the form of thin films and micrometer-sized droplets, invisible to the naked eye, persists on leaves during daytime due to deliquescence – the absorption of water until dissolution – of hygroscopic aerosols. Here, we study how such microscopic wetness affects cell survival. We show that, on surfaces drying under moderate humidity, stable microdroplets form around bacterial aggregates due to capillary pinning and deliquescence. Notably, droplet-size increases with aggregate-size, and cell survival is higher the larger the droplet. This phenomenon was observed for 13 bacterial species, two of which – Pseudomonas fluorescens and P. putida – were studied in depth. Microdroplet formation around aggregates is likely key to bacterial survival in a variety of unsaturated microbial habitats, including leaf surfaces. © Grinberg et al.
Kashtan, N. ; Roggensack, S. E. ; Berta-Thompson, J. W. ; Grinberg, M. ; Stepanauskas, R. ; Chisholm, S. W. Fundamental differences in diversity and genomic population structure between Atlantic and Pacific Prochlorococcus. ISME J 2017, 11, 1997-2011.Abstract
The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans represent different biogeochemical regimes in which the abundant marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus thrives. We have shown that Prochlorococcus populations in the Atlantic are composed of hundreds of genomically, and likely ecologically, distinct coexisting subpopulations with distinct genomic backbones. Here we ask if differences in the ecology and selection pressures between the Atlantic and Pacific are reflected in the diversity and genomic composition of their indigenous Prochlorococcus populations. We applied large-scale single-cell genomics and compared the cell-by-cell genomic composition of wild populations of co-occurring cells from samples from Station ALOHA off Hawaii, and from Bermuda Atlantic Time Series Station off Bermuda. We reveal fundamental differences in diversity and genomic structure of populations between the sites. The Pacific populations are more diverse than those in the Atlantic, composed of significantly more coexisting subpopulations and lacking dominant subpopulations. Prochlorococcus from the two sites seem to be composed of mostly non-overlapping distinct sets of subpopulations with different genomic backbones-likely reflecting different sets of ocean-specific micro-niches. Furthermore, phylogenetically closely related strains carry ocean-associated nutrient acquisition genes likely reflecting differences in major selection pressures between the oceans. This differential selection, along with geographic separation, clearly has a significant role in shaping these populations.