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Keystone metabolites of crop rhizosphere microbiomes

Dahlstrom, Kurt M. and McRose, Darcy L. and Newman, Dianne K. (2020) Keystone metabolites of crop rhizosphere microbiomes. Current Biology, 30 (19). R1131-R1137. ISSN 0960-9822. PMCID PMC8059773. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.08.005.

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The role of microbes in sustaining agricultural plant growth has great potential consequences for human prosperity. Yet we have an incomplete understanding of the basic function of rhizosphere microbial communities and how they may change under future stresses, let alone how these processes might be harnessed to sustain or improve crop yields. A reductionist approach may aid the generation and testing of hypotheses that can ultimately be translated to agricultural practices. With this in mind, we ask whether some rhizosphere microbial communities might be governed by ‘keystone metabolites’, envisioned here as microbially produced molecules that, through antibiotic and/or growth-promoting properties, may play an outsized role in shaping the development of the community spatiotemporally. To illustrate this point, we use the example of redox-active metabolites, and in particular phenazines, which are produced by many bacteria found in agricultural soils and have well-understood catalytic properties. Phenazines can act as potent antibiotics against a variety of cell types, yet they also can promote the acquisition of essential inorganic nutrients. In this essay, we suggest the ways these metabolites might affect microbial communities and ultimately agricultural productivity in two specific scenarios: firstly, in the biocontrol of beneficial and pathogenic fungi in increasingly arid crop soils and, secondly, through promotion of phosphorus bioavailability and sustainable fertilizer use. We conclude with specific proposals for future research.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Dahlstrom, Kurt M.0000-0001-6590-6020
McRose, Darcy L.0000-0001-9637-7176
Newman, Dianne K.0000-0003-1647-1918
Additional Information:© 2020 Elsevier Inc. Available online 5 October 2020. We thank the following agencies and foundations for supporting our research: grants to D.K.N. from the ARO (W911NF-17-1-0024), NIH (1R01AI127850-01A1) and Caltech Resnick Sustainability Institute; the Life Sciences Research Foundation postdoctoral fellowship to K.M.D.; and the Caltech Biology & Biological Engineering Division and Simons Foundation Marine Microbial Ecology postdoctoral fellowships to D.L.M. We are grateful to A. Flamholz, D. Dar, L.S. Thomashow, L. Glass, C. Adams, and Z. Lonergan for insightful feedback on the manuscript. We also thank W.P. Falcon for helpful discussions about agriculture.
Group:Resnick Sustainability Institute
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Army Research Office (ARO)W911NF-17-1-0024
Resnick Sustainability InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Life Sciences Research FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Division of Biology and Biological EngineeringUNSPECIFIED
Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:19
PubMed Central ID:PMC8059773
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201006-131015350
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Kurt M. Dahlstrom, Darcy L. McRose, Dianne K. Newman, Keystone metabolites of crop rhizosphere microbiomes, Current Biology, Volume 30, Issue 19, 2020, Pages R1131-R1137, ISSN 0960-9822,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:105842
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:07 Oct 2020 00:17
Last Modified:15 Feb 2022 18:37

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