The importance of ‘self-DNA’ for maintaining diversity among species

Last updated: 20 Apr, 2015

In natural plant communities, diversity is maintained by limits set on each plant by itself. This involves a detrimental effect of self-DNA (DNA from the same species released during decomposition) on the plant’s and its offspring’s growth. New research finds that this process not only regulates plant populations but may also be generalized to a range of additional organisms including algae, protozoa, fungi, and animals.


The findings indicate that self-DNA is involved in the regulation of species coexistence and competition, and it might be harnessed for new pharmacological applications in both agriculture and medicine.


‘The discovery of an unknown inhibitory effect by extracellular self-DNA has been like adding the last piece to a difficult jigsaw puzzle. Surprisingly, it appeared to be a natural and simple explanation for many cases of negative plant–soil feedback, including the well-known phenomenon of soil sickness in agriculture’, said Dr Stefano Mazzoleni, lead investigator of the New Phytologist research. ‘The general occurrence of such inhibition in all tested organisms other than plants raises the question of whether this could be a new paradigm for biology.’


In a Letter by Veresoglou et al., recently published on Early View, the authors note that there are currently a lot of open questions with regards to the ecological significance of self-DNA effects, and they also propose a possible new role for self-DNA in plant–plant communication. The Letter, Self-DNA: a blessing in disguise? is now available to download and read for free on Early View.


Conceptual diagram highlighting established and prospective (self-DNA) signaling pathways for plant–plant communication.

Fig. 1 from Veresoglou et al. Conceptual diagram highlighting established and prospective (self-DNA) signaling pathways for plant–plant communication. Self-DNA appears to possess a range of unique signaling properties that could explain its presence in plants.


Based on a press release published by the Wiley Press Room on 20 April 2015. For further information contact Dawn Peters ScienceNewsroom@Wiley.Com +1 781-388-8408.


Relevant publications:

Veresoglou SD, Aguilar-Trigueros CA, Mansour I, Rillig MC. 2015. Self-DNA: a blessing in disguise? New Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.13425

Mazzoleni S, Bonanomi G, Incerti G, Chiusano ML, Termolino P, Mingo A, Senatore M, Giannino F, Cartenì F, Rietkerk M, Lanzotti V. 2015. Inhibitory and toxic effects of extracellular self-DNA in litter: a mechanism for negative plant–soil feedbacks? New Phytologist 205: 1195–1210.

Mazzoleni S, Cartenì F, Bonanomi G, Senatore M, Termolino P, Giannino F, Incerti G, Rietkerk M, Lanzotti V, Chiusano ML. 2015. Inhibitory effects of extracellular self-DNA: a general biological process? New Phytologist 206: 127–132


Originally posted 20 April 2015