Laser ablation tomography for visualization of root colonization by edaphic organisms

Christopher F. Strock, Hannah M. Schneider, Tania Galindo-Castañeda, Benjamin T. Hall, Bart Van Gansbeke, Diane E. Mather, Mitchell G. Roth, Martin I. Chilvers, Xiangrong Guo, Kathleen Brown, Jonathan P. Lynch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Soil biota have important effects on crop productivity, but can be difficult to study in situ. Laser ablation tomography (LAT) is a novel method that allows for rapid, three-dimensional quantitative and qualitative analysis of root anatomy, providing new opportunities to investigate interactions between roots and edaphic organisms. LAT was used for analysis of maize roots colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, maize roots herbivorized by western corn rootworm, barley roots parasitized by cereal cyst nematode, and common bean roots damaged by Fusarium. UV excitation of root tissues affected by edaphic organisms resulted in differential autofluorescence emission, facilitating the classification of tissues and anatomical features. Samples were spatially resolved in three dimensions, enabling quantification of the volume and distribution of fungal colonization, western corn rootworm damage, nematode feeding sites, tissue compromised by Fusarium, and as well as root anatomical phenotypes. Owing to its capability for high-throughput sample imaging, LAT serves as an excellent tool to conduct large, quantitative screens to characterize genetic control of root anatomy and interactions with edaphic organisms. Additionally, this technology improves interpretation of root-organism interactions in relatively large, opaque root segments, providing opportunities for novel research investigating the effects of root anatomical phenes on associations with edaphic organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5327-5342
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cereal cyst nematode
  • Fusarium
  • mycorrhizae
  • root anatomy
  • root phenotyping
  • western corn rootworm


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