NorthenLab: Exometabolomics linking genomes with environments to understand how webs of microbes sustain biomes

Review paper explores how metabolic pathways can be engineered to improve plant traits

Getting back to the grass roots: harnessing specialized metabolites for improved crop stress resilience

Northen Lab researchers Yezhang Ding and Trent Northen contributed to a recent paper published in Current Opinion in Biotechnology that reviewed the families and functions of grass root specialized metabolites (GRSM), integrative approaches for GRSM pathway discovery, and approaches for harnessing GRSM to improve plant performance. 

Soil ecosystems are complex (encompassing bacteria, fungi, viruses, nematodes, arthropods, and plants) and heavily influenced by activity surrounding plant roots. While the range of organismal interactions are complex, the discovery, control, and improved deployment of GRSM will be fundamental to optimizing biotic and abiotic stress resilience. 

Recent advances in genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, genetics, synthetic biology, and bioinformatics now provide efficient tools for functional discovery and leveraged application of root specialized metabolism. Functional genetic variants identified through genome wide analyses, targeted CRISPR/Cas9 approaches, and both native and non-native overexpression studies hold promise to inform novel strategies for bioengineering metabolic pathways to improve plant traits. 

To learn more about specific types of GRSM, how GRSM pathways are discovered, and approaches for harnessing GRSM, read the paper in full

Reference: 

Ding, Y., Northen, T. R., Khalil, A., Huffaker, A., Schmelz, E. A. (2021). Getting back to the grass roots: harnessing specialized metabolites for improved crop stress resilience. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 70, 174–186. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copbio.2021.05.010