P8 - Root Genes

Spatial and temporal analysis of maize root gene expression patterns as a tool to elucidate how the maize interacts with rhizosphere microbiome


The rhizosphere is the volume of soil affected by living plant roots, which hosts a plethora of organisms including bacteria, fungi and protozoa. Many microbial communities are beneficial to the plant, for example by facilitating nutrient acquisition and production of plant growth hormones - while others exhibit detrimental effects on plant health. Conversely, plants are able to shape rhizosphere communities by the deposition of root exudates, border cells and mucilage, competition for nutrients or 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. Two maize genotypes (wildtype, rth3) are grown on two different soil types (loam, sand) in soil column experiments under standardized conditions as well as in the field. Additionally, the influence of a plant-growth-promoting bacterium will be studied in a joint experiment.
A secondary aim is to evaluate the impact of X-ray computer tomography - a novel non-invasive imaging technique for roots in soil. Prior studies found plant morphology after low-dose scanning relatively unaffected, however the effect on plant gene expression has not been considered so far.
In a global analysis, RNAseq will be used to identify differential expression and co-expression networks. From this, representative marker genes will be selected for subsequent use in qPCR arrays, with a focus on categories relating to root exudation, nutrient levels, immunity/defense signalling, and water acquisition.
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