Biosensor reporting of root exudation from Hordeum vulgare in relation to shoot nitrate concentration

M. J. Darwent, E. Paterson, Allan James Stuart McDonald, A. D. Tomos

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75 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between shoot nitrate concentration, mediated by nitrate supply to roots, and root exudation from Hordeum vulgare. Plants were grown for 14 d in C-free sand microcosms, supplied with nutrient solution containing 2 mM nitrate. After this period, three treatments were applied for a further 14 d: (A) continued supply with 2 mM nitrate (zero boost), (B) supply with 10 mM nitrate (low boost), and (C) supply with 20 mM nitrate (high boost). At the end of the treatment period, a bacterial biosensor (Pseudomonas fluorescens 10586 pUCD607, marked with the lux CDABE genes for bioluminescence) was applied to the microcosms to report on C-substrate availability, as a consequence of root exudation. The nitrate boost treatments significantly affected shoot nitrate concentrations, in the order C>B>A. In treatments receiving a nitrate boost (B, C), increased shoot nitrate concentration was correlated with increased plant biomass, reduced root length, reduced number of root tips, and increased mean root diameter, relative to the no boost treatment (A). Imaging of biosensor bioluminescence (proportional to metabolic activity in response to availability of root exudates) indicated that root exudation increased with decreasing shoot nitrate concentration. Biosensor reporting of root C-flow indicated that exudation was greater from root tip regions than from the whole root, but that specific exudation rates for all sites were unaffected by treatments. Total root exudation across treatments was found to be closely correlated with total root length, indicating that increased root exudation, per unit root biomass, with decreasing nitrate supply was associated with altered root morphology, as a consequence of systemic plant responses to internal N-status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-334
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • barley
  • biosensor reporting
  • root exudation
  • shoot nitrate
  • ACID


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