Engineering transkingdom signalling in plants to control gene expression in rhizosphere bacteria
The root microbiota is critical for agricultural yield, with growth-promoting bacteria able to solubilise phosphate, produce plant growth hormones, antagonise pathogens and fix N2. Plants control the microorganisms in their immediate environment and this is at least in part through direct selection, the immune system, and interactions with other microorganisms. Considering the importance of the root microbiota for crop yields it is attractive to artificially regulate this environment to optimise agricultural productivity. Towards this aim we express a synthetic pathway for the production of the rhizopine scyllo-inosamine in plants. We demonstrate the production of this bacterial derived signal in both Medicago truncatula and barley and show its perception by rhizosphere bacteria, containing bioluminescent and fluorescent biosensors. This study lays the groundwork for synthetic signalling networks between plants and bacteria, allowing the targeted regulation of bacterial gene expression in the rhizosphere for delivery of useful functions to plants.
Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 3430 (2019)