Plants and the art of microbial maintenance.



Plants and the art of microbial maintenance.

The plant as a sculptor. Credit: Phil Robinson

It has been known for centuries that plants produce a wide variety of chemicals of medical value at their roots.

The benefits to human health are clear, but it is less obvious how and why plants spend 20 percent of their energy building these exotic chemicals. Is it for defense? Is it a waste? What is it for?

A joint study of the John Innes Center and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has shed new light on this fundamental issue of specialized plant metabolism.

Appearing in the magazine Science, the study reveals that plants use their root-derived chemicals to collect and maintain microbial communities. It suggests that, through the plant kingdom, the chemistry of plants can provide a basis for communication that allows sculpting microbial communities adapted to the specific needs of the host plant, be it a common weed or important crops such as rice or wheat. .

The findings provide researchers with a gateway to engineering the microbiota of the plant root in a variety of important crops.

"This question has fascinated people for hundreds of years and we have found that this chemistry allows plants to direct the badembly and maintenance of microbial communities in and around the roots," says Professor Anne Osbourn of the John Innes Center, co-author of the study.

"We badume that the plant is shaping the root microbiota for its own benefit, if we can understand what the plant is doing and what kind of microbes are responding to it and what the benefits are, then we can use that knowledge to design." improved the crops or designed the root microbiome to improve productivity and sustainability and to get away from fertilizers and pesticides, "adds Professor Osbourn.

In this study, the team discovered a metabolic network expressed in the roots of the well-known model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. This network, organized mainly around groups of genes, can make more than 50 molecules not previously described belong to a diverse family of natural plant products called Triterpenes.

The researchers generated altered plants in the production of these root-derived chemicals and working with Professor Yang Bai of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, they cultivated these plants in natural soil of a farm in Beijing.

The results showed clear differences in the types of microbial communities that these plants badembled compared to wild plants.

In additional experiments, the group synthesized many of these newly discovered chemicals and tested their effect on communities of microbes grown in a laboratory recreation of plant-microbial interactions in the soil.

"Using this approach, we can see that very small differences in chemical structures can have profound effects on whether a particular molecule will inhibit or promote the growth of a particular bacterium.All taken together we can clearly see a very subtle and selective modulation of the Microbes by This badtail of chemicals, "says the first author of the article, Dr. Ancheng Huang.

Comparisons with root bacterial profiles in rice and wheat that do not produce these. Arabidopsis The triterpenes showed that these genetic networks were modulating the bacteria towards the badembly of a root microbiota specific to Arabidopsis.

The next step for researchers is to further explore the benefits of this sculpture from the microbial community to the plant and observe other influences on the chemistry of the plant, such as limiting nutrients and challenging pathogens.

The complete study "A specialized metabolic network modulates selectively Arabidopsis microbiota of the root, "appears in Science.


Plants rely on their resident bacteria to protect them from harmful microbes


More information:
A.C. Huang el al., "A specialized metabolic network selectively modulates the microbiota of the Arabidopsis root" Science (2019). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi… 1126 / science.aau6389

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Plants and the art of microbial maintenance (2019, May 9)
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