Metabolic regulation of the maize rhizobiome by benzoxazinoids

T.E.A. Cotton, P. Pétriacq, D.D. Cameron, M.A. Meselmani, R. Schwarzenbacher, S.A. Rolfe, J. Ton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rhizobiome is an important regulator of plant growth and health. Plants shape their rhizobiome communities through production and release of primary and secondary root metabolites. Benzoxazinoids (BXs) are common tryptophan-derived secondary metabolites in grasses that regulate belowground and aboveground biotic interactions. In addition to their biocidal activity, BXs can regulate plant–biotic interactions as semiochemicals or within-plant defence signals. However, the full extent and mechanisms by which BXs shape the root-associated microbiome has remained largely unexplored. Here, we have taken a global approach to examine the regulatory activity of BXs on the maize root metabolome and associated bacterial and fungal communities. Using untargeted mass spectrometry analysis in combination with prokaryotic and fungal amplicon sequencing, we compared the impacts of three genetic mutations in different steps in the BX pathway. We show that BXs regulate global root metabolism and concurrently influence the rhizobiome in a root type-dependent manner. Correlation analysis between BX-controlled root metabolites and bacterial taxa suggested a dominant role for BX-dependent metabolites, particularly flavonoids, in constraining a range of soil microbial taxa, while stimulating methylophilic bacteria. Our study supports a multilateral model by which BXs control root–microbe interactions via a global regulatory function in root secondary metabolism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1647-1658
Number of pages12
JournalISME Journal
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2019


  • metabolomics
  • microbiome


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