Functional potential of soil microbial communities in the maize rhizosphere

Xiangzhen Li, Junpeng Rui, Jingbo Xiong, Jiabao Li, Zhili He, Jizhong Zhou, Anthony C. Yannarell, Roderick I. Mackie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microbial communities in the rhizosphere make significant contributions to crop health and nutrient cycling. However, their ability to perform important biogeochemical processes remains uncharacterized. Here, we identified important functional genes that characterize the rhizosphere microbial community to understand metabolic capabilities in the maize rhizosphere using the GeoChip-based functional gene array method. Significant differences in functional gene structure were apparent between rhizosphere and bulk soil microbial communities. Approximately half of the detected gene families were significantly ( p, <0.05) increased in the rhizosphere. Based on the detected gyrB genes, Gammaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes and Cyanobacteria were most enriched in the rhizosphere compared to those in the bulk soil. The rhizosphere niche also supported greater functional diversity in catabolic pathways. The maize rhizosphere had significantly enriched genes involved in carbon fixation and degradation (especially for hemicelluloses, aromatics and lignin), nitrogen fixation, ammonification, denitrification, polyphosphate biosynthesis and degradation, sulfur reduction and oxidation. This research demonstrates that the maize rhizosphere is a hotspot of genes, mostly originating from dominant soil microbial groups such as Proteobacteria, providing functional capacity for the transformation of labile and recalcitrant organic C, N, P and S compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere112609
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 10 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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