Applications of the indole-alkaloid gramine modulate the assembly of individual members of the barley rhizosphere microbiota

Mauro Maver, Carmen Escudero-Martinez, James Abbott, Jenny Morris, Pete E. Hedley, Tanja Mimmo (Lead / Corresponding author), Davide Bulgarelli (Lead / Corresponding author)

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12 Citations (Scopus)
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Microbial communities proliferating at the root-soil interface, collectively referred to as the rhizosphere microbiota, represent an untapped beneficial resource for plant growth, development and health. Integral to a rational manipulation of the microbiota for sustainable agriculture is the identification of the molecular determinants of these communities. In plants, biosynthesis of allelochemicals is centre stage in defining inter-organismal relationships in the environment. Intriguingly, this process has been moulded by domestication and breeding selection. The indole-alkaloid gramine, whose occurrence in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) is widespread among wild genotypes but has been counter selected in several modern varieties, is a paradigmatic example of this phenomenon. This prompted us to investigate how exogenous applications of gramine impacted on the rhizosphere microbiota of two, gramine-free, elite barley varieties grown in a reference agricultural soil. High throughput 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing revealed that applications of gramine interfere with the proliferation of a subset of soil microbes with a relatively broad phylogenetic assignment. Strikingly, growth of these bacteria appeared to be rescued by barley plants in a genotype- and dosage-independent manner. In parallel, we discovered that host recruitment cues can interfere with the impact of gramine application in a host genotype-dependent manner. Interestingly, this latter effect displayed a bias for members of the phyla Proteobacteria. These initial observations indicate that gramine can act as a determinant of the prokaryotic communities inhabiting the root-soil interface.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12498
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2021


  • Barley
  • Domestication
  • Gramine
  • Microbiota
  • Rhizosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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