Volatiles from soil-borne fungi affect directional growth of roots

Kay Moisan*, Jos M. Raaijmakers, Marcel Dicke, Dani Lucas-Barbosa, Viviane Cordovez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Volatiles play major roles in mediating ecological interactions between soil (micro)organisms and plants. It is well-established that microbial volatiles can increase root biomass and lateral root formation. To date, however, it is unknown whether microbial volatiles can affect directional root growth. Here, we present a novel method to study belowground volatile-mediated interactions. As proof-of-concept, we designed a root Y-tube olfactometer, and tested the effects of volatiles from four different soil-borne fungi on directional growth of Brassica rapa roots in soil. Subsequently, we compared the fungal volatile organic compounds (VOCs) previously profiled with Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry (GC–MS). Using our newly designed setup, we show that directional root growth in soil is differentially affected by fungal volatiles. Roots grew more frequently toward volatiles from the root pathogen Rhizoctonia solani, whereas volatiles from the other three saprophytic fungi did not impact directional root growth. GC–MS profiling showed that six VOCs were exclusively emitted by R. solani. These findings verify that this novel method is suitable to unravel the intriguing chemical cross-talk between roots and soil-borne fungi and its impact on root growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-345
JournalPlant Cell and Environment
Issue number1
Early online date30 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • chemotaxis
  • fungal volatiles
  • Rhizoctonia solani
  • root attraction
  • root olfactometer
  • root pathogen

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