Research Topic

Small Molecules Bridging Terrestrial Microbial Interactions in Multitrophic Systems

About this Research Topic

Microbes can produce and respond to an astounding array of small molecules. The ecological role of microbial chemical interactions is essential for terrestrial ecosystems functioning. Secondary metabolites play an extremely important part in microbial communication and interactions e.g. as signaling compounds or as suppressive agents. The current knowledge of the chemical diversity and functions of secondary metabolites in terrestrial interkingdom interactions is still limited.

One of the earliest demonstrations (by the mid-nineties) and the best-studied terrestrial host-microbe association is the model system legume-rhizobia; a series of signal exchanges occur during this symbiosis that begins with the bacteria sensing and responding to flavonoids exuded from the roots of the plant. Another contemporary finding is the multipartite interaction among Attine ants, a mutualistic fungus, and a filamentous actinomycete that produces antimicrobial compounds to protect insect colony against the specialized fungal pathogen. Nevertheless, the first antimicrobial compound produced by this actinomycete was identified only years later as dentigerumycin, a cyclic depsipeptide with highly modified amino acids.

Deciphering microbial chemical interactions in nature is very exciting but a very challenging task. However, in the last decades, thanks to advances in analytical tools used for metabolite profiling and metabolomic analysis, significant progress was achieved and novel chemical entities were assigned to ecological roles. Ecologically relevant molecules in terrestrial microbial interactions can serve in short- (e.g. bacteriocins, lipopeptides) or long-distance communications (i.e. volatile organic compounds, such as terpenes and indoles).

The goal of this special issue is to summarize new findings and recent developments in the field of microbial chemical interactions with emphasis on microbe-microbe, plant-microbe, microbe-insect interactions and microbe-plant-insect interactions.

In this context, we support the submissions of research articles, review or opinion papers that contemplate binary to multi-trophic chemical interactions, including soil microbial metabolomics, chemical interactions and signaling mechanisms. Moreover, we encourage submissions of methodological articles that offer novel tools and experimental setups to study microbial multitrophic chemical interactions.

This research topic conveys studies that investigate and discuss:
1) Diversity and function of metabolites relevant to multitrophic terrestrial interactions
2) The mechanisms of small molecules exchange in belowground microbial interactions (including microbe-microbe, microbe-plant or microbe-insect interactions)
3) Metabolic networks underpinning microbial interactions and communication
4) Chemical signalling in understudied terrestrial microbial symbiotic systems
5) Volatile organic compounds mediating long-distance multispecies interactions
6) Linking metabolomics to other omics techniques to investigate the compounds, the biosynthetic pathways and genes required for ecological responses
7) Chemical ecology and natural compounds as new approaches for sustainable agricultural
8) Advances in analytical tools, methods and experimental setups to investigate interspecies interactions


Keywords: terrestrial microbial interactions, secondary metabolites, interkingdom signalling, chemical ecology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Microbes can produce and respond to an astounding array of small molecules. The ecological role of microbial chemical interactions is essential for terrestrial ecosystems functioning. Secondary metabolites play an extremely important part in microbial communication and interactions e.g. as signaling compounds or as suppressive agents. The current knowledge of the chemical diversity and functions of secondary metabolites in terrestrial interkingdom interactions is still limited.

One of the earliest demonstrations (by the mid-nineties) and the best-studied terrestrial host-microbe association is the model system legume-rhizobia; a series of signal exchanges occur during this symbiosis that begins with the bacteria sensing and responding to flavonoids exuded from the roots of the plant. Another contemporary finding is the multipartite interaction among Attine ants, a mutualistic fungus, and a filamentous actinomycete that produces antimicrobial compounds to protect insect colony against the specialized fungal pathogen. Nevertheless, the first antimicrobial compound produced by this actinomycete was identified only years later as dentigerumycin, a cyclic depsipeptide with highly modified amino acids.

Deciphering microbial chemical interactions in nature is very exciting but a very challenging task. However, in the last decades, thanks to advances in analytical tools used for metabolite profiling and metabolomic analysis, significant progress was achieved and novel chemical entities were assigned to ecological roles. Ecologically relevant molecules in terrestrial microbial interactions can serve in short- (e.g. bacteriocins, lipopeptides) or long-distance communications (i.e. volatile organic compounds, such as terpenes and indoles).

The goal of this special issue is to summarize new findings and recent developments in the field of microbial chemical interactions with emphasis on microbe-microbe, plant-microbe, microbe-insect interactions and microbe-plant-insect interactions.

In this context, we support the submissions of research articles, review or opinion papers that contemplate binary to multi-trophic chemical interactions, including soil microbial metabolomics, chemical interactions and signaling mechanisms. Moreover, we encourage submissions of methodological articles that offer novel tools and experimental setups to study microbial multitrophic chemical interactions.

This research topic conveys studies that investigate and discuss:
1) Diversity and function of metabolites relevant to multitrophic terrestrial interactions
2) The mechanisms of small molecules exchange in belowground microbial interactions (including microbe-microbe, microbe-plant or microbe-insect interactions)
3) Metabolic networks underpinning microbial interactions and communication
4) Chemical signalling in understudied terrestrial microbial symbiotic systems
5) Volatile organic compounds mediating long-distance multispecies interactions
6) Linking metabolomics to other omics techniques to investigate the compounds, the biosynthetic pathways and genes required for ecological responses
7) Chemical ecology and natural compounds as new approaches for sustainable agricultural
8) Advances in analytical tools, methods and experimental setups to investigate interspecies interactions


Keywords: terrestrial microbial interactions, secondary metabolites, interkingdom signalling, chemical ecology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

27 June 2020 Abstract
25 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

27 June 2020 Abstract
25 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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