Amino acids in the rhizosphere: From plants to microbes

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245 Scopus citations


Often referred to as the "building blocks of proteins", the 20 canonical proteinogenic amino acids are ubiquitous in biological systems as the functional units in proteins. Sometimes overlooked are their varying additional roles that include serving as metabolic intermediaries, playing structural roles in bioactive natural products, acting as cosubstrates in enzymatic transformations, and as key regulators of cellular physiology. Amino acids can also serve as biological sources of both carbon and nitrogen and are found in the rhizosphere as a result of lysis or cellular efflux from plants and microbes and proteolysis of existing peptides. While both plants and microbes apparently prefer to take up nitrogen in its inorganic form, their ability to take up and use amino acids may confer a selective advantage in certain environments where organic nitrogen is abundant. Further, certain amino acids (e.g., glutamate and proline) and their betaines (e.g., glycine betaine) serve as compatible solutes necessary for osmoregulation in plants and microbes and can undergo rapid cellular flux. This ability is of particular importance in an ecological niche such as the rhizosphere, which is prone to significant variations in solute concentrations. Amino acids are also shown to alter key phenotypes related to plant root growth and microbial colonization, symbiotic interactions, and pathogenesis in the rhizosphere. This review will focus on the sources, transport mechanisms, and potential roles of the 20 canonical proteinogenic amino acids in the rhizosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1692-1705
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Amino acids
  • Plant microbiome
  • Plant root exudate
  • Plant-microbe communication
  • Rhizosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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