The plant circadian clock influences rhizosphere community structure and function

ISME J. 2018 Feb;12(2):400-410. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2017.172. Epub 2017 Oct 20.


Plants alter chemical and physical properties of soil, and thereby influence rhizosphere microbial community structure. The structure of microbial communities may in turn affect plant performance. Yet, outside of simple systems with pairwise interacting partners, the plant genetic pathways that influence microbial community structure remain largely unknown, as are the performance feedbacks of microbial communities selected by the host plant genotype. We investigated the role of the plant circadian clock in shaping rhizosphere community structure and function. We performed 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing to characterize rhizosphere bacterial communities of Arabidopsis thaliana between day and night time points, and tested for differences in community structure between wild-type (Ws) vs clock mutant (toc1-21, ztl-30) genotypes. We then characterized microbial community function, by growing wild-type plants in soils with an overstory history of Ws, toc1-21 or ztl-30 and measuring plant performance. We observed that rhizosphere community structure varied between day and night time points, and clock misfunction significantly altered rhizosphere communities. Finally, wild-type plants germinated earlier and were larger when inoculated with soils having an overstory history of wild-type in comparison with clock mutant genotypes. Our findings suggest the circadian clock of the plant host influences rhizosphere community structure and function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / microbiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Ecosystem
  • Genome, Plant
  • Genotype
  • Plant Development
  • Plant Roots / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Rhizosphere*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Soil
  • TOC1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Transcription Factors