University of Dundee

Dr Davide Bulgarelli

Structure, function and host control of the plant microbiota
Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Fellow
University of Dundee at JHI, Errol Road, Invergowrie, Dundee
Full Telephone: 
+44 (0) 1382 568934, int ext


Plants host remarkable rich and diverse microbial communities in proximity of and within their tissues, designated the plant microbiota. Intriguingly, these associations appear symptomless at first glance, possibly representing a series of mutualistic or symbiotic relationships. Interestingly, experiments performed under laboratory conditions revealed that members of the microbiota provide strategic functions to the plant, such as enhanced mineral acquisition and indirect pathogen protection. However the role and function of the microbiota in a community context is still largely unknown.

My group aims at understanding the structure, function and host control of the microbiota thriving at the root-soil interface. (Figure 1).

Figure 1 - The rhizosphere and root microbiota ( modified from Hirsch & Mauchline Nature Biotechnology 30, 961-962 (2012)).

We use Barley (Hordeum vulgare, Figure 2 ) as a model to unravel the contribution of the microbiota to plant growth and health. Towards this objective we use state of the art metagenomics,  molecular microbiology and computational biology approaches. By exploiting the experimental and molecular resources available for barley, such as  mutants, accessions, and -"omics" tools, we aim to integrate our findings into a plant genetic framework.


Figure 2 Barley plant                               Figure 3 Pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene revelaled an impact of different barley accessions on the rhizospehre and root microbiota.

Our ambition is to gain fundamentally novel insights on the molecular interactions existing between an eukaryotic genome and its associated microbiome. In our vision the generated knowledge will be key to exploit plant-microbiota relationships for the sustainability of barley and other crop production.


I teach "The plant microbiota: from the laboratory to the field" in the Level 4 course BS42005


Senga, R.A., Alegria Terrazas, S., Balbirnie, K., Blank, M., Janiak, A., Szarejko, I., Chmielewska, B., Karcz, J., Morris, J., Hedley, P.E., George, T.S., and Bulgarelli, D. (2017) Root Hair Mutations Displace the Barley Rhizosphere Microbiota. Frontiers in plant science. 8, 1094
d.o.i 10.3389/fpls.2017.01094
Pubmed 5483447
PMC 28694814

Alegria Terrazas R., Giles C., Paterson E., Robertson-Albertyn S., Cesco S., Mimmo T., Pii Y., and Bulgarelli D. (2016). Plant-Microbiota Interactions as a Driver of the Mineral Turnover in the Rhizosphere. Advances in Applied Microbiology 95:1-67

Bulgarelli D., Garrido Oter R., Muench P., Weiman A., Droege J., Pan Y., McHardy A. and Schulze-Lefert P. (2015) Structure and Functions of the bacterial root microbiota in wild and domesticated barley. Cell Host and Microbe 17:392-403

Schlaeppi K. and Bulgarelli D. (2014) The plant microbiome at work. Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions Journal 28:212-217

Bulgarelli D., Schlaeppi K., Spaepen S., Ver Loren van Themaat E and Schulze-Lefert P. (2013) Structure and functions of the bacterial microbiota of plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology. 64:807-838.

Schlaeppi K., Ver Loren van Themaat E., Bulgarelli D. and Schulze-Lefert P. (2013). Arabidopsis thaliana as model for studies on the bacterial root microbiota. In Molecular and Microbial ecology of the Rhizosphere, de Bruin F. J. DOI: 10.1002/9781118297674

Bulgarelli D., Rott M., Schlaeppi K., Ver Loren van Themaat E., Ahmadinejad N., Assenza F., Rauf P., Huettel B., Reinhardt R., Schmelzer E., Peplies J., Gloeckner F. O., Amann R., Eickhorst E., Schulze-Lefert P. (2012). Revealing structure and assembly cues for Arabidopsis root-inhabiting bacterial microbiota. Nature 488:91–95

Bulgarelli D., Biselli C. Collins N. C., Consonni G., Stanca A. M., Schulze-Lefert P., Vale´G. (2010): The CC-NB-LRR-Type Rdg2a Resistance Gene Confers Immunity to the Seed-Borne Barley Leaf Stripe Pathogen in the Absence of Hypersensitive Cell Death. PlosONE 5(9): e12599. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012599

Haegi A, Bonardi V, Dall’Aglio E., Glissant D.,Tumino G., Bulgarelli D, Collins N. C., Infantino A., Stanca A. M., Delledonne M., Valè G (2008): Histological and Molecular Analysis of Rdg2a barley resistance to leaf stripe. Molecular Plant Pathology. 9:463-478.

Tacconi G., Baldassarre V., Collins N. C., Bulgarelli D., Stanca A. M., Valè G. (2006): Haplotype characterization and markers at the barley Mlo powdery mildew resistance locus as tools for marker assisted selection. Genome. 49: 864-872.

Francia E, Tacconi G, Crosatti C, Barabaschi D, Bulgarelli D, Dall’Aglio E, Valè G (2005): Marker-Assisted selection in crop plants. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture. 82: 317-342.

Bulgarelli D., Collins N. C., Tacconi G., Dall’Aglio E., Brueggeman R., Kleinhofs A. Stanca A. M., Valè G. (2004): High resolution genetic mapping of the leaf stripe resistance gene Rdg2a in Barley. Theoretical Applied Genetics 108: 1401-1408.