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Trends Plant Sci. 2016 Mar;21(3):256-265. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2016.01.008. Epub 2016 Jan 30.

Metabolomics in the Rhizosphere: Tapping into Belowground Chemical Communication.

Author information

German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany; Institute of Ecology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Dornburger-Str. 159, 07743 Jena, Germany; Molecular Interaction Ecology, Institute of Water and Wetland Research (IWWR), Radboud University, PO Box 9010, Nijmegen, GL 6500, The Netherlands. Electronic address:
Laboratory of Plant Physiology, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 1, Wageningen, PB 6708, The Netherlands. Electronic address:


The rhizosphere is densely populated with a variety of organisms. Interactions between roots and rhizosphere community members are mostly achieved via chemical communication. Root exudates contain an array of primary and secondary plant metabolites that can attract, deter, or kill belowground insect herbivores, nematodes, and microbes, and inhibit competing plants. Metabolomics of root exudates can potentially help us to better understand this chemical dialogue. The main limitations are the proper sampling of the exudate, the sensitivity of the metabolomics platforms, and the multivariate data analysis to identify causal relations. Novel technologies may help to generate a spatially explicit metabolome of the root and its exudates at a scale that is relevant for the rhizosphere community.


allelopathy; mycorrhiza; plant–herbivore interactions; root exudates; secondary metabolites; volatiles

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