Environmental microbiology

Attracting bacteria in the soil

Plants release various secondary metabolites through their roots, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been implicated as antimicrobials or as chemoattractants. Here, the authors developed a glass olfactometer system in which bacteria that were inoculated at one end in a soil-containing glass tube could migrate towards VOCs that were produced by Carex arenaria in a central vessel. They monitored the migration of cells from a bacterial community that was isolated from the rhizosphere of C. arenaria and found that distant soil bacteria were attracted by plant root VOCs. Moreover, the VOC profile that was released from healthy plants differed from that of plants infected with the fungal pathogen Fusarium culmorum, and specific bacterial species were attracted more to the VOCs from infected plants, including species that inhibit fungal growth. The findings of this study highlight the role of VOCs in long-range plant–microorganism interactions in the soil.

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    Schulz-Bohm, K. et al. Calling from distance: attraction of soil bacteria by plant root volatiles. ISME J. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-017-0035-3 (2018)

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Du Toit, A. Attracting bacteria in the soil. Nat Rev Microbiol 16, 122 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro.2018.18

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