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Getting to the root -- unearthing the plant-microbe quid pro quo
Date:8/1/2012

While the flower may attract the bee and the admiring eye of the passerby, it is the unseen complex network of life below ground where the action is. The microbial community or microbiome that inhabits the rhizosphere and endosphere the niches immediately surrounding and inside a plant's rootfacilitates the shuttling of nutrients and information into and out of the roots within the soil matrix. This commerce, by enabling the plant to adapt to its immediate environment, contributes to plant health and growth, defense against pests, management of carbon and other elements for the enrichment of the soil, and even informs the plant's ability to sequester contaminants. These underground microbial activities have not received as much attention as the effort to characterize the role of the microbial populations inside and on the surfaces of humans, but this is now changing owing to a recent publication in the journal Nature. Led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, the study published August 2, 2012 sheds light on the mechanisms driving the subterranean formation of this "plant microbiome" and how plants can influence the presence of the microbiota in the rhizosphere and vice-versa.

"Understanding the rules that guide formation of the root microbiome are likely to contribute significantly to the success of agriculture and our understanding of the carbon cycle," said senior author Jeff Dangl, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator and UNC's John N. Couch Professor of Biology. "Science has long been fascinated with the spectrum of relationships between plant and microbe that span from pathogenic to mutually beneficial. With our results we are adding new details to this complex landscape."

The team, which also included researchers from University of Bremen, in Germany, Cornell University, and the University of Queensland in Aus
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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