Maize synthesized benzoxazinoids affect the host associated microbiome

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Background: Plants actively shape their associated microbial communities by synthesizing bio-active substances. Plant secondary metabolites are known for their signaling and plant defense functions, yet little is known about their overall effect on the plant microbiome. In this work, we studied the effects of benzoxazinoids (BXs), a group of secondary metabolites present in maize, on the host-associated microbial structure. Using BX knock-out mutants and their W22 parental lines, we employed 16S and ITS2 rRNA gene amplicon analysis to characterize the maize microbiome at early growth stages. Results: Rhizo-box experiment showed that BXs affected microbial communities not only in roots and shoots, but also in the rhizosphere. Fungal richness in roots was more affected by BXs than root bacterial richness. Maize genotype (BX mutants and their parental lines) as well as plant age explained both fungal and bacterial community structure. Genotypic effect on microbial communities was stronger in roots than in rhizosphere. Diverse, but specific, microbial taxa were affected by BX in both roots and shoots, for instance, many plant pathogens were negatively correlated to BX content. In addition, a co-occurrence analysis of the root microbiome revealed that BXs affected specific groups of the microbiome. Conclusions: This study provides insights into the role of BXs for microbial community assembly in the rhizosphere and in roots and shoots. Coupling the quantification of BX metabolites with bacterial and fungal communities, we were able to suggest a gatekeeper role of BX by showing its correlation with specific microbial taxa and thus providing insights into effects on specific fungal and bacterial taxa in maize roots and shoots. Root microbial co-occurrence networks revealed that BXs affect specific microbial clusters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number59
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Benzoxazinoids, Knockout mutants, Maize microbiome, Plant microbiome, Root exudates, Secondary metabolites

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