Root Microbiome Group

Plants accommodate on and inside plant roots a specific and species-rich microbiota including a multitude of bacteria, fungi or oomycetes. These microbes collectively function as a microbiome and, similar to the microbial communities in human or animal guts, they impact nutrition and health of their host. For instance, several root microbiota members are known to support plant growth e.g., by improving nutrition acquisition or providing pathogen protection. We still have a rudimentary understanding how plants interact with their associated microbial communities. In our research we address the following questions of root microbiome biology:

  • What is the functional contribution of the root microbiota to plant growth and disease protection?
  • How do plants communicate to the root microbiota to take influence on their activities?
  • Can we manipulate the root microbiota for smart and sustainable agriculture?

We mainly investigate plant-microbiome interactions using Arabidopsis thaliana and Zea mays as models. We combine field and laboratory experiments and make use of methods in microbiomics, molecular biology, microbiology, plant genetics and bioinformatics. Our work includes microbiota manipulation experiments where we systematically assess gnotobiotic plants for the traits of their synthetic root communities in axenic microcosms.

The plant root microbiome

 

The animation is built from confocal micrographs of an Arabidopsis thaliana main root segment with two lateral roots (red autofluorescence). The root was collected from a plant growing in natural microbe-rich soil and the root-colonizing bacteria (green fluorescence) were visualized by means of fluorescence in situ hybridization.