Review Article

Plant and Soil

, Volume 321, Issue 1, pp 235-257

First online:

Plant-driven selection of microbes

  • Anton HartmannAffiliated withDepartment Microbe-Plant Interactions, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH) Email author 
  • , Michael SchmidAffiliated withDepartment Microbe-Plant Interactions, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH)
  • , Diederik van TuinenAffiliated withUMR INRA Université de Bourgogne, Plante-Microbe-Environnement CMSE-INRA
  • , Gabriele BergAffiliated withInstitute for Environmental Biotechnology, Graz University of Technology

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The rhizodeposition of plants dramatically influence the surrounding soil and its microflora. Root exudates have pronounced selective and promoting effects on specific microbial populations which are able to respond with chemotaxis and fast growth responses, such that only a rather small subset of the whole soil microbial diversity is finally colonizing roots successfully. The exudates carbon compounds provide readily available nutrient and energy sources for heterotrophic organisms but also contribute e.g. complexing agents, such as carboxylates, phenols or siderophores for the mobilization and acquisition of rather insoluble minerals. Root exudation can also quite dramatically alter the pH- and redox-milieu in the rhizosphere. In addition, not only specific stimulatory compounds, but also antimicrobials have considerable discriminatory effect on the rhizosphere microflora. In the “biased rhizosphere” concept, specific root associated microbial populations are favored based on modification of the root exudation profile. Rhizosphere microbes may exert specific plant growth promoting or biocontrol effects, which could be of great advantage for the plant host. Since most of the plant roots have symbiotic fungi, either arbuscular or ectomycorrhizal fungi, the impact of plants towards the rhizosphere extends also to the mycorrhizosphere. The selective effect of the roots towards the selection of microbes also extends towards the root associated and symbiotic fungi. While microbes are known to colonize plant roots endophytically, also mycorrhiza are now known to harbor closely associated bacterial populations even within their hyphae.

The general part of the manuscript is followed by the more detailed presentation of specific examples for the selection and interaction of roots and microbes, such as in the rhizosphere of strawberry, potato and oilseed rape, where the soil-borne plant pathogen Verticillium dahliae can cause high yield losses; the potential of biocontrol by specific constituents of the rhizosphere microbial community is demonstrated. Furthermore, plant cultivar specificity of microbial communities is described in different potato lines including the case of transgenic lines. Finally, also the specific selective effect of different Medicago species on the selection of several arbuscular mycorrhizal taxa is presented.


Root exudation Rhizodeposition Microbial diversity Rhizosphere bacteria Mycorrhizal fungi Arbuscular mycorrhiza Ectomycorrhiza Antimicrobials Signalling compounds Plant growth promotion Biological control “Biased rhizosphere concept”