P8 - Root Genes

Spatial and temporal analysis of maize root gene expression to elucidate how the maize interacts with the rhizosphere microbiome and the environment


Plants shape rhizosphere communities by the deposition of root exudates, border cells and mucilage, competiting for nutrients and expressing immunity-related responses. In this project, we investigate plant-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere at the level of root gene expression in a spatial and temporal context. To obtain information how maize copes with soil compaction, drought stress and maize monoculture, wild type and root hair mutant maize are grown on loam and sand in soil column experiments under standardized conditions as well as in the field.
The main objective is to reveal mechanisms how maize roots adapt to changes in soil environment, and how the adaptations contribute to rhizosphere processes at a single root type and at root system levels. First, we investigate how soil compaction and increased soil contact of the root affects plant gene expression. Then, we analyze how water deficit, an important factor limiting maize production, is reflected in the abundances of plant immunity, nutrient transporter and root exudation related transcripts. We also want to dissect how the allocation level of carbon to root tips and rhizosphere is related to the response of maize to the rhizosphere microbiome during soil compaction. And finally, how the long-term development of soil structure and maize monoculture in the field is reflected by changes in the expression levels of genes for microbiome perception, defense signaling, exudation and nutrient uptake. The identification of the underlying gene expression patterns in synthesis with rhizosphere parameters investigated by collaborating research groups will advance a better understanding of the mechanisms through which plants shape and are shaped by the rhizosphere.

Link to English scientific abstract

Link to German scientific abstract