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Roots and microbes: Bringing a complex underground ecology into the lab
Date:8/1/2012

ted, the soil that clung directly to the plants' roots housed only a subset of the bacteria found in the surrounding soil. A handful of types were particularly commonly at this root-soil interface, whereas other types were absent, despite being present in the soil in which the plant had grown. Inside the root, these effects were amplified: even fewer species had settled in and concentrated their numbers inside the plant's cells.

That indicates that there is some selection of which bacteria in the soil are able to associate with the plant root. "We don't know if it's the host's ability to attract the bug or the bug's ability to inhabit the niche, or bothbut now we can do the experiment," Dangl says.

When they compared which microbes were in and around the roots of plants grown in the two soils each with a distinct native population of bacteria, as well as a unique nutritional profile the team found some overlap, but also some differences. In fact, Dangl notes, in a paper published in the same issue of Nature, a research team in Germany using similar methods reports that they found a very similar core group of microbes in and around the roots of Arabidopsis plants grown in two German soils. "The core in the center tells you Arabidopsis wants some set of microbes, and they want Arabidopsis. But the soil-specific interactions suggest that in different soil and nutrient compositions, the plant might need to recruit certain bugs to provide particular ecosystem services." Understanding the relationship between soil chemistry, a plant's nutritional needs, and the microbes with which it interacts could let researchers develop probiotic additives that help plants flourish in particular environments, he says.

"What we have accomplished is the necessary descriptive phase to build a new experimental platform, that combines the best of community ecology with the best of reductionist molecular genetics," Dangl says
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Contact: Jennifer Michalowski
michalow@hhmi.org
301-215-8576
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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