Root exudates mediate kin recognition in plants


Though recent work has demonstrated that plants can recognize species, kin versus strangers, and self/non-self roots, no mechanism for identity recognition in plants has yet been found. Here we examined the role of soluble chemicals in signaling among roots. Utilizing Arabidopsis thaliana, we exposed young seedlings to liquid media containing exudates from siblings, strangers (non-siblings), or only their own exudates. In one experiment, root secretions were inhibited by sodium orthovanadate and root length and number of lateral roots were measured. In a second experiment, responses to siblings, strangers, and their own exudates were measured for several accessions (genotypes), and the traits of length of the longest lateral root and hypocotyl length were also measured. The exposure of plants to the root exudates of strangers induced greater lateral root formation than exposure of plants to sibling exudates. Stranger recognition was abolished upon treatment with the secretion inhibitor. In one experiment, plants exposed to sibling or stranger exudates have shorter roots than plants only exposed to their own exudates. This self/non-self recognition response was not affected by the secretion inhibitor. The results demonstrate that that kin recognition and self/non-self are two separate identity recognition systems involving soluble chemicals. Kin recognition requires active secretion by roots.

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Root exudates mediate kin recognition in plants