Biotech Updates

Scientists Find First Chemical Signal to Attract Beneficial Bacteria

April 27, 2012

Rothamsted Research and the University of Sheffield found that growth-promoting microbes live amongst maize roots because of their emission of chemical signals that attract them. This study may not just increase the yield potential of maize but also promote studies on fight against soil-borne pests and diseases. If plants are able to attract disease repellent and growth promoting bacteria, crop producers may reduce their dependence on fertilizers and pesticides.

Dr. Andy Neal, leader of the research, said that though they have known for a while that plants radiate chemicals, some of these are thought of as toxic and not as attractants of beneficial bacteria. Now they have studied Pseudomonas putida that are attracted to the said toxins which produce nutrients like iron and phosphorous that plants need and help defend plants against harmful bacteria.

Scientists also found that Benzoxazinoids or BXs which are chemicals that help in defending plants from pests involve genes which are linked to movement response. These genes are the ones that encourage or attract the P. putida to migrate to the plant's roots. The study also shows that P. putida increased the rate of the molecular breakdown of BX and also suggests that these bacteria increase the ability of BX to "detoxify the root environment".

Dr. Ton from University of Sheffield, co-leader of the research, added that they also found that bacterial genes are switched on in the presence of root produced BX chemicals. This implies that the BX chemicals not only attract the beneficial bacteria but also control them into helping the plant supress soil-borne diseases.

BBSRC Chief Executive Professor Douglas Kell shared that in "using advances in computing to study entire biological and ecological systems" strong solutions to cater to food security and sustainability may be developed.