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Beneficial effects of bacteria-plant communication based on quorum sensing molecules of the N -acyl homoserine lactone group


Bacterial quorum sensing (QS) mechanisms play a crucial role in the proper performance and ecological fitness of bacterial populations. Many key physiological processes are regulated in a QS-dependent manner by auto-inducers, like the N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs) in numerous Gram-negative bacteria. In addition, also the interaction between bacteria and eukaryotic hosts can be regulated by AHLs. Those mechanisms gained much attention, because of the positive effects of different AHL molecules on plants. This positive impact ranges from growth promotion to induced resistance and is quite contrasting to the rather negative effects observed in the interactions between bacterial AHL molecules and animals. Only very recently, we began to understand the molecular mechanisms underpinning plant responses to AHL molecules. In this review, we gathered the latest information in this research field. The first part gives an overview of the bacterial aspects of quorum sensing. Later we focus on the impact of AHLs on plant growth and AHL-priming, as one of the most understood phenomena in respect to the inter-kingdom interactions based on AHL-quorum sensing molecules. Finally, we discuss the potential benefits of the understanding of bacteria-plant interaction for the future agricultural applications.

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The authors would like to apologize to all colleagues whose work was not cited due to the space limitation. AS is supported by the grant 13HS026 “plantinfect” from the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE), Germany. This publication has been written with the support of the AgreenSkills+ fellowship program which has received funding from the EU’s Seventh Framework Program under grant agreement N° FP7-609398 (AgreenSkills+ contract) to STS. AH acknowledges the additional funding of the interdisciplinary research topic “Molecular Interactions in the Rhizosphere” by Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) and greatly appreciates fruitful discussions with Dr. Burkhard Hense (Institute of Biological Computing, HMGU).

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All authors contributed equally to this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Adam Schikora.

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Schikora, A., Schenk, S.T. & Hartmann, A. Beneficial effects of bacteria-plant communication based on quorum sensing molecules of the N -acyl homoserine lactone group . Plant Mol Biol 90, 605–612 (2016).

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  • Quorum sensing
  • N-acyl homoserine lactone (AHL)
  • AHL-priming
  • Inter-kingdom communication
  • Quorum quenching