Comparative metabolite profiling of two switchgrass ecotypes reveals differences in drought stress responses and rhizosheath weight

Tie Yuan Liu, Mo Xian Chen, Youjun Zhang, Fu Yuan Zhu, Ying Gao Liu, Yuan Tian, Alisdair R. Fernie, Nenghui Ye*, Jianhua ZHANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Main conclusion: Rhizosheath comprises soil that adheres firmly to roots. In this study, two ecotypes of switchgrass with different rhizosheath sizes after drought stress were analyzed which showed metabolic differences under drought conditions. Abstract: The rhizosheath comprises soil that adheres firmly to roots by a combination of root hairs and mucilage and may aid in root growth under soil drying. The aim of this work is to reveal the potential metabolites involved in rhizosheath formation under drought stress conditions. Panicum virgatum L. (switchgrass), which belongs to the Poaceae family, is an important biofuel and fodder crop in drought areas. Five switchgrass ecotypes (cv. Alamo, cv. Blackwake, cv. Summer, cv. Cave-in-Rock and cv. Kanlow) have a broad range of rhizosheath weight under drought conditions. For two selected ecotypes with contrast rhizosheath weight (cv. Alamo and cv. Kanlow), root hair length and density, lateral root number, root morphological parameters were measured, and real-time qRT-PCR was performed. Gas chromatography mass spectrophotometry (GC–MS) was used to determine the primary metabolites in the shoots and roots of selected ecotypes under drought stress conditions. The change trends of root hair length and density, lateral root number and related gene expression were consistent with rhizosheath weight in Alamo and Kanlow under drought and watered conditions. For root morphological parameters, Alamo grew deeper than Kanlow, while Kanlow exhibited higher values for other parameters. In this study, the levels of amino acids, sugars and organic acids were significantly changed in response to drought stress in two switchgrass ecotypes. Several metabolites including amino acids (arginine, isoleucine, methionine and cysteine) and sugars (kestose, raffinose, fructose, fucose, sorbose and xylose) in the large soil-sheathed roots of Alamo and Kanlow were significantly increased compared to small or no soil-sheathed roots of Alamo and Kanlow. Difference in rhizosheath size is reflected in the plant internal metabolites under drought stress conditions. Additionally, our results highlight the importance of using metabolite profiling and provide a better understanding of rhizosheath formation at the cellular level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1355-1369
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Metabolite profiling
  • Panicum virgatum L
  • Rhizosheath
  • Root growth
  • Water stress


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