Root exudates: from plant to rhizosphere and beyond

Plant Cell Rep. 2020 Jan;39(1):3-17. doi: 10.1007/s00299-019-02447-5. Epub 2019 Jul 25.


This article describes the composition of root exudates, how these metabolites are released to the rhizosphere and their importance in the recruitment of beneficial microbiota that alleviate plant stress. Metabolites secreted to the rhizosphere by roots are involved in several processes. By modulating the composition of the root exudates, plants can modify soil properties to adapt and ensure their survival under adverse conditions. They use several strategies such as (1) changing soil pH to solubilize nutrients into assimilable forms, (2) chelating toxic compounds, (3) attracting beneficial microbiota, or (4) releasing toxic substances for pathogens, etc. In this work, the composition of root exudates as well as the different mechanisms of root exudation have been reviewed. Existing methodologies to collect root exudates, indicating their advantages and disadvantages, are also described. Factors affecting root exudation have been exposed, including physical, chemical, and biological agents which can produce qualitative and quantitative changes in exudate composition. Finally, since root exudates play an important role in the recruitment of mycorrhizal fungi and plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), the mechanisms of interaction between plants and the beneficial microbiota have been highlighted.

Keywords: Mycorrhiza; Rhizobacteria; Rhizosphere; Root exudates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Microbiota
  • Mycorrhizae / growth & development
  • Mycorrhizae / metabolism*
  • Mycorrhizae / physiology
  • Plant Exudates / chemistry*
  • Plant Exudates / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / metabolism*
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Plants / microbiology*
  • Rhizobiaceae / metabolism
  • Rhizosphere
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology


  • Plant Exudates