University of Dundee – JHI
Dundee, United Kingdoms
Structure, function and host control of the rhizosphere microbiota
The microbiota populating the rhizosphere, the thin layer of soil surrounding plant roots, represents an untapped resource for sustainable crop production. The host genome drives, at least partially, the taxonomic and functional composition of these plant-microbial assemblages. Our lab uses barley, the world’s fourth most cultivated cereal, as a model to gain novel insights in the genetic relationships between a plant genome and its associated microbiota. We previously demonstrated that wild and domesticated barley genotypes host contrasting microbiotas in the rhizosphere, and that this differential microbial recruitment is mediated by the barley genome. We built on these discoveries to implement an innovative approach where we used microbiota data as an external quantitative trait and high-resolution genomic information to identify regions of the barley genome shaping rhizosphere communities. In parallel, we capitalised on metagenomics sequencing and synthetic communities to define the probiotic potential of the microbiota of plants exposed to stress conditions, including growth-limiting nitrogen supplies and pathogens. Here I will describe the experimental approaches that led us to these discoveries and the anticipated avenues for translational applications.