Tripartite mutualisms as models for understanding plant-microbial interactions

Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2020 Aug:56:28-36. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2020.02.003. Epub 2020 Apr 1.


All plants host diverse microbial assemblages that shape plant health, productivity, and function. While some microbial effects are attributable to particular symbionts, interactions among plant-associated microbes can nonadditively affect plant fitness and traits in ways that cannot be predicted from pairwise interactions. Recent research into tripartite plant-microbe mutualisms has provided crucial insight into this nonadditivity and the mechanisms underlying plant interactions with multiple microbes. Here, we discuss how interactions among microbial mutualists affect plant performance, highlight consequences of biotic and abiotic context-dependency for nonadditive outcomes, and summarize burgeoning efforts to determine the molecular bases of how plants regulate establishment, resource exchange, and maintenance of tripartite interactions. We conclude with four goals for future tripartite studies that will advance our overall understanding of complex plant-microbial interactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Microbial Interactions
  • Plants* / genetics
  • Symbiosis*