Dicer-like proteins influence Arabidopsis root microbiota independent of RNA-directed DNA methylation

Richa Kaushal, Li Peng, Sunil K. Singh, Mengrui Zhang, Xinlian Zhang, Juan I. Vílchez, Zhen Wang, Danxia He, Yu Yang, Suhui Lv, Zhongtian Xu, Rafael J.L. Morcillo, Wei Wang, Weichang Huang, Paul W. Paré, Chun Peng Song, Jian Kang Zhu, Renyi Liu, Wenxuan Zhong, Ping MaHuiming Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Plants are naturally associated with root microbiota, which are microbial communities influential to host fitness. Thus, it is important to understand how plants control root microbiota. Epigenetic factors regulate the readouts of genetic information and consequently many essential biological processes. However, it has been elusive whether RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) affects root microbiota assembly. Results: By applying 16S rRNA gene sequencing, we investigated root microbiota of Arabidopsis mutants defective in the canonical RdDM pathway, including dcl234 that harbors triple mutation in the Dicer-like proteins DCL3, DCL2, and DCL4, which produce small RNAs for RdDM. Alpha diversity analysis showed reductions in microbe richness from the soil to roots, reflecting the selectivity of plants on root-associated bacteria. The dcl234 triple mutation significantly decreases the levels of Aeromonadaceae and Pseudomonadaceae, while it increases the abundance of many other bacteria families in the root microbiota. However, mutants of the other examined key players in the canonical RdDM pathway showed similar microbiota as Col-0, indicating that the DCL proteins affect root microbiota in an RdDM-independent manner. Subsequently gene analysis by shotgun sequencing of root microbiome indicated a selective pressure on microbial resistance to plant defense in the dcl234 mutant. Consistent with the altered plant-microbe interactions, dcl234 displayed altered characters, including the mRNA and sRNA transcriptomes that jointly highlighted altered cell wall organization and up-regulated defense, the decreased cellulose and callose deposition in root xylem, and the restructured profile of root exudates that supported the alterations in gene expression and cell wall modifications. Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate an important role of the DCL proteins in influencing root microbiota through integrated regulation of plant defense, cell wall compositions, and root exudates. Our results also demonstrate that the canonical RdDM is dispensable for Arabidopsis root microbiota. These findings not only establish a connection between root microbiota and plant epigenetic factors but also highlight the complexity of plant regulation of root microbiota. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number57
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Cell wall
  • DCL
  • Defense
  • Microbiome
  • RNA-directed DNA methylation
  • Root microbiota
  • Small RNA


Dive into the research topics of 'Dicer-like proteins influence Arabidopsis root microbiota independent of RNA-directed DNA methylation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this