Observing Root Interacting Fungi with in vivo Plant Microscopy

Light sheet microscopy utilized by plant researchers at the Max Planck Institute

Axel Mithoefer and Veit Grabe looking at the new images of infected Arabidopsis roots generated with a ZEISS light sheet microscope.

Dr. Axel Mithöfer and his team at the Max Planck Institute together with colleagues from the University of Jena recently published findings using plant microscopy that show key differences in how root-interacting beneficial and pathogenic fungi utilize auxin – a phytohormone involved in root growth and development – and its target genes to manipulate the performance of their hosts for their own needs. These data provide important contributions in understanding how these symbiotic interactions between plant and fungi initiate.

Some of the data used in this paper include extended time lapse observations of fungus and plant root interactions in vivo using ZEISS light sheet microscopy.

Visualization of auxin distribution (indicated in red) in a growing Arabidopsis root expressing an auxin responsive reporter system.

Dr. Mithöfer was able to share some of his experience working with microscopy for plant imaging as well as his thoughts on this article and his future work.

Have you done much work imaging plants with light sheet microscopy? Or was this the first time you’ve utilized this technique in your research?

That was the first study where we used the light sheet microscope, ZEISS Lightsheet Z.1. But we are motivated and convinced by the results we received, we now use light sheet microscopy in other projects as well.

Anja Meents and Veit Grabe place the sample and prepare the ZEISS light sheet microscope for the measurement.

How did light sheet microscopy compare to other microscopy techniques you have used in the past to image plants?

We did not use that many microscopy techniques before, only some routine light and fluorescence microscopy measurements. Thus, light sheet microscopy opened new horizons for us. Especially the 3D view of the sample as well as the possibility to maintain the plant in low stress conditions during the measurement was a huge asset.

How does this recent publication fit into the broader goals for your research?

We are mainly interested in the interactions of plants with other organisms, which mean beneficial and pathogenic microbes as well as insect herbivores. We focus on the plants’ responses in order to learn how plants in these interactions react on the molecular, biochemical and physiological level; what is similar what is different if pathogenic or beneficial microbes are involved. Thus, the mentioned study fits very well in the whole context of our research interests.

Based on your findings, where do you see your research going next?

We will continue doing studies in this direction. The possibility to visualize ongoing processes in a living tissue by the combination of reporter genes and light sheet microscopy is a tool that has the ability to learn in real time what is going on. This is much closer to reality and a valuable additional technique to address our research goals, i.e. to understand in more detail the plants’ responses in the various interactions with other organisms.

Learn More

Read the full scientific paper in Frontiers in Microbiology.

Learn about light sheet microscopy from ZEISS.

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