Scientists from Chinese, Belgian and British research organizations found that plants could release different chemicals to cultivate microbes around their roots to suit its own purposes.
The study published on Thursday in the journal Science showed that across the plant kingdom diverse plant chemistry may provide a basis for communication that enables the sculpting of microbial communities tailored to the specific needs of the host plant.
Researchers from Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ghent University and John Innes Center identified a metabolic network expressed in the roots of the well-known model plant thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), which can make over 50 previously unknown molecules.
They grew those plants in natural soil from a farm in Beijing and found clear differences in the types of microbial communities that these plants assembled compared with the wild plants.
Then, they synthesized many of these newly-discovered chemicals and tested their effect on communities of cultured microbes in a lab.
"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 bacteria," said the paper's first author Huang Ancheng at John Innes Center.
The findings explain why plants produced diversifying substance during metabolism and a significant part of the plant's energy is used to make root-derived molecules.
Also, the findings may be useful in engineering beneficial root bacterial community for sustainable agriculture.
The researchers plan to explore further the benefits of this sculpting of the microbial community for the plant and identify other influences on plant chemistry such as pathogen challenge. (Xinhua)
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