Research Article

Pathogen-induced activation of disease-suppressive functions in the endophytic root microbiome

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Science  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6465, pp. 606-612
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw9285

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Protecting plants from the inside out

Some soils show a remarkable ability to suppress disease caused by plant pathogens, an ability that is attributed to plant-associated microbiota. Carrión et al. investigated the role of endophytes, the intimate microbial community found within roots, in fungal disease suppression (see the Perspective by Tringe). The wilt fungus Rhizoctonia solani infects sugar beets, whereupon transcriptional analysis shows that several bacterial endophyte species activate biosynthetic gene clusters to cause disease suppression. These organisms produce antifungal effectors, including enzymes that can digest fungal cell walls, and secondary metabolites, including phenazines, polyketides, and siderophores, which may contribute to the antifungal phenotype.

Science, this issue p. 606; see also p. 568


Microorganisms living inside plants can promote plant growth and health, but their genomic and functional diversity remain largely elusive. Here, metagenomics and network inference show that fungal infection of plant roots enriched for Chitinophagaceae and Flavobacteriaceae in the root endosphere and for chitinase genes and various unknown biosynthetic gene clusters encoding the production of nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) and polyketide synthases (PKSs). After strain-level genome reconstruction, a consortium of Chitinophaga and Flavobacterium was designed that consistently suppressed fungal root disease. Site-directed mutagenesis then revealed that a previously unidentified NRPS-PKS gene cluster from Flavobacterium was essential for disease suppression by the endophytic consortium. Our results highlight that endophytic root microbiomes harbor a wealth of as yet unknown functional traits that, in concert, can protect the plant inside out.

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