Auxin-producing bacteria promote barley rhizosheath formation

Feiyun Xu, Hanpeng Liao, Jinyong Yang, Yingjiao Zhang, Peng Yu, Yiying Cao, Ju Fang, Shu Chen, Liang Li, Leyun Sun, Chongxuan Du, Ke Wang, Xiaolin Dang, Zhiwei Feng, Yifan Cao, Ying Li, Jianhua Zhang, Weifeng Xu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The rhizosheath, or the layer of soil closely adhering to roots, can help plants to tolerate drought under moderate soil drying conditions. Rhizosheath formation is the result of poorly understood interactions between root exudates, microbes, and soil conditions. Here, we study the roles played by the soil microbiota in rhizosheath formation in barley (a dry crop). We show that barley rhizosheath formation is greater in acid soil than in alkaline soil, and inoculation with microbiota from acid soil enhances rhizosheath formation in alkaline soil. The rhizosheath-promoting activity is associated with the presence of Flavobacteriaceae and Paenibacillaceae bacteria that express genes for biosynthesis of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA, a common auxin), as determined by metagenomics and metatranscriptomics. Two bacterial strains isolated from rhizosheath (Chryseobacterium culicis and Paenibacillus polymyxa) produce IAA and enhance barley rhizosheath formation, while their IAA-defective mutants are unable to promote rhizosheath formation. Co-inoculation with the IAA-producing strains enhances barley grain yield in field experiments through an increase in spike number. Our findings contribute to our understanding of barley rhizosheath formation, and suggest potential strategies for crop improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5800
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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