A sterile hydroponic system for characterising root exudates from specific root types and whole-root systems of large crop plants




Kawasaki, Akitomo
Okada, Shoko
Zhang, Chunyan
Delhaize, Emmanuel
Mathesius, Ulrike
Richardson, Alan E.
Watt, Michelle
Gilliham, Matthew
Ryan, Peter

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BioMed Central


Background Plant roots release a variety of organic compounds into the soil which alter the physical, chemical and biological properties of the rhizosphere. Root exudates are technically challenging to measure in soil because roots are difficult to access and exudates can be bound by minerals or consumed by microorganisms. Exudates are easier to measure with hydroponically-grown plants but, even here, simple compounds such as sugars and organic acids can be rapidly assimilated by microorganisms. Sterile hydroponic systems avoid this shortcoming but it is very difficult to maintain sterility for long periods especially for larger crop species. As a consequence, studies often use small model species such as Arabidopsis to measure exudates or use seedlings of crop plants which only have immature roots systems. Results We developed a simple hydroponic system for cultivating large crop plants in sterile conditions for more than 30 days. Using this system wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) plants were grown in sterile conditions for 30 days by which time they had reached the six-leaf stage and developed mature root systems with seminal, nodal and lateral roots. To demonstrate the utility of this system we characterized the aluminium-activated exudation of malate from the major types of wheat roots for the first time. We found that all root types measured released malate but the amounts were two-fold greater from the seminal and nodal axile roots compared with the lateral roots. Additionally, we showed that this sterile growth system could be used to collect exudates from intact whole root systems of barley. Conclusions We developed a simple hydroponic system that enables cereal plants to be grown in sterile conditions for longer periods than previously recorded. Using this system we measured, for the first time, the aluminium-activated efflux of malate from the major types of wheat roots. We showed the system can also be used for collecting exudates from intact root systems of 30-day-old barley plants. This hydroponic system can be modified for various purposes. Importantly it enables the study of exudates from crop species with mature root systems.





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