Function of root border cells in plant health: Pioneers in the rhizosphere

M. C. Hawes, L. A. Brigham, F. Wen, H. H. Woo, Y. Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Plants dedicate a large amount of energy to the regulated production of living cells programmed to separate from roots into the external environment. This unusual process may be worth the cost because it enables the plant to dictate which species will share its ecological niche. For example, border cells can rapidly attract and stimulate growth in some microorganisms and repel and inhibit the growth of others. Such specificity may provide a way to control the dynamics of adjacent microbial populations in the soil to foster beneficial associations and inhibit pathogenic invasion. Plant genes controlling the delivery of border cells and the expression of their unique properties provide tools to genetically engineer plants with altered border cell quality and quantity. Such variants are being used to test the hypothesis that the function of border cells is to protect plant health by controlling the ecology of the root system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-327
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Phytopathology
StatePublished - 1998


  • Microbial gene expression
  • Rhizosphere ecology
  • Root caps
  • Root exudates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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