Plant and Soil

, Volume 329, Issue 1–2, pp 117–126 | Cite as

Microorganisms and nematodes increase levels of secondary metabolites in roots and root exudates of Plantago lanceolata

  • Susanne Wurst
  • Roel Wagenaar
  • Arjen Biere
  • Wim H. van der Putten
Regular Article


Plant secondary metabolites play an important role in constitutive and inducible direct defense of plants against their natural enemies. While induction of defense by aboveground pathogens and herbivores is well-studied, induction by belowground organisms is less explored. Here, we examine whether soil microorganisms and nematodes can induce changes in levels of the secondary metabolites aucubin and catalpol (iridoid glycosides, IG) in roots and root exudates of two full-sib families of Plantago lanceolata originating from lines selected for low and high constitutive levels of IG in leaves. Addition of soil microorganisms enhanced the shoot and root biomass, and the concentration of aucubin in roots of both Plantago lines without affecting IG levels in the rhizosphere. By contrast, nematode addition tended to reduce the root biomass and enhanced the stalk biomass, and increased the levels of aucubin and catalpol in root exudates of both Plantago lines, without affecting root IG concentrations. The Plantago lines did not differ in constitutive levels of aucubin and total IG in roots, while the concentration of catalpol was slightly higher in roots of plants originally selected for low constitutive levels of IG in leaves. Root exudates of “high IG line” plants contained significantly higher levels of aucubin, which might be explained by their higher root biomass. We conclude that soil microorganisms can induce an increase of aucubin concentrations in the roots, whereas nematodes (probably plant feeders) lead to an enhancement of aucubin and catalpol levels in root exudates of P. lanceolata. A potential involvement of secondary metabolites in belowground interactions between plants and soil organisms is discussed.


Belowground defense Iridoid glycosides Root exudates Nematodes Soil microorganisms 



This study was financed by the EU funded Marie-Curie training network BIORHIZ (Biotic interactions in the rhizosphere as structuring forces for plant communities MRTN-CT-2003-505090). Publication 4602 Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Wurst
    • 1
    • 2
  • Roel Wagenaar
    • 1
  • Arjen Biere
    • 1
  • Wim H. van der Putten
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)Centre for Terrestrial EcologyHeterenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Freie Universität BerlinÖkologie der PflanzenBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Wageningen UniversityNematology LabWageningenThe Netherlands

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