Progressive drought alters the root exudate metabolome and differentially activates metabolic pathways in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). Academic Article uri icon


  • Root exudates comprise various primary and secondary metabolites that are responsive to plant stressors, including drought. As increasing drought episodes are predicted with climate change, identifying shifts in the metabolome profile of drought-induced root exudation is necessary to understand the molecular interactions that govern the relationships between plants, microbiomes, and the environment, which will ultimately aid in developing strategies for sustainable agriculture management. This study utilized an aeroponic system to simulate progressive drought and recovery while non-destructively collecting cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) root exudates. The molecular composition of the collected root exudates was characterized by untargeted metabolomics using Fourier-Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) and mapped to the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) databases. Over 700 unique drought-induced metabolites were identified throughout the water-deficit phase. Potential KEGG pathways and KEGG modules associated with the biosynthesis of flavonoid compounds, plant hormones (abscisic acid and jasmonic acid), and other secondary metabolites were highly induced under severe drought, but not at the wilting point. Additionally, the associated precursors of these metabolites, such as amino acids (phenylalanine and tyrosine), phenylpropanoids, and carotenoids, were also mapped. The potential biochemical transformations were further calculated using the data generated by FT-ICR MS. Under severe drought stress, the highest number of potential biochemical transformations, including methylation, ethyl addition, and oxidation/hydroxylation, were identified, many of which are known reactions in some of the mapped pathways. With the application of FT-ICR MS, we revealed the dynamics of drought-induced secondary metabolites in root exudates in response to drought, providing valuable information for drought-tolerance strategies in cotton.

published proceedings

  • Front Plant Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Lin, H., Coker, H. R., Howe, J. A., Tfaily, M. M., Nagy, E. M., Antony-Babu, S., Hague, S., & Smith, A. P.

complete list of authors

  • Lin, Heng-An||Coker, Harrison R||Howe, Julie A||Tfaily, Malak M||Nagy, Elek M||Antony-Babu, Sanjay||Hague, Steve||Smith, A Peyton

publication date

  • January 2023