Arabidopsis plants engineered for high root sugar secretion enhance the diversity of soil microorganisms
Min Song, Xingjian Zhang, Jintao Yang, Chen Gao, Yahong Wei, Shaolin Chen and Johannes Liesche
Plants secrete sugars from their roots into the soil, presumably to support beneficial plant-microbe interactions. Accordingly, manipulation of sugar secretion might be a viable strategy to enhance plant health and productivity. To evaluate the effect of increased root sugar secretion on plant performance and the soil microbiome, we overexpressed glucose and sucrose-specific membrane transporters in root epidermal cells of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. These plants showed strongly increased rates of sugar secretion in a hydroponic culture system. When grown on soil, the transporter-overexpressor plants displayed a higher photosynthesis rate, but reduced shoot growth compared to the wild-type control. Amplicon sequencing and qPCR analysis of rhizosphere soil samples indicated a limited effect on the total abundance of bacteria and fungi, but a strong effect on community structure in soil samples associated with the overexpressors. Notable changes included the increased abundance of bacteria belonging to the genus Rhodanobacter and the fungi belonging to the genus Cutaneotrichosporon, while Candida species abundance was reduced. The potential influences of the altered soil microbiome on plant health and productivity are discussed. The results indicate that the engineering of sugar secretion can be a viable pathway to enhancing the carbon sequestration rate and optimizing the soil microbiome.