Sarah Lebeis, assistant professor of microbiology, works on plant-microbe interactions and plant innate immunity. Recently an article of which she is the first and corresponding author was accepted for publication in Science, arguably the leading journal for scientific publication. The article deals with the interaction between plants and the microbial communities with which they interact.
Plants have evolved in a world surrounded by microbes. As with many other multicellular organisms, they assemble a specific subset of microorganisms into host-associated microbial communities (a.k.a. microbiomes) by very controlled mechanisms. Lebeis’s article moves beyond a description of these associated microbes to identify one method of communication between a plant and its microbial community that occurs through salicylic acid, a compound made by plants that has multiple medical applications in treatments to reduce acne, pain, and fevers.