19th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation

October 4-9, 2015         Pacific Grove, CaliforniaJens Stougaard

Speaker: Professor Jens Stougaard from Deptartment Molecular Biology & Genetics, Aarhus University, Denmark

Discover how bacteria sweet-talk their way into plants

Professor Jens Stougaard and col. have discovered how legumes are able to tell helpful and harmful invading bacteria apart. The research has implications for improving the understanding of how other plants, animals and humans interact with bacteria in their environment and defend themselves against hostile infections. These findings can have profound implications for both agricultural research and medical science.

Their study, which changes the understanding of carbohydrates as signal molecules, is newly published in the leading international journal Nature.

Legumes form a unique symbiotic relationship with bacteria known as rhizobia, which they allow to infect their roots. This leads to root nodules being formed in which the bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into ammonia that the plant can use for growth. Exactly how these plants are able to distinguish and welcome compatible rhizobia for this self-fertilising activity – while halting infection by incompatible bacteria – has been a mystery.

Now the researchers at the Centre for Carbohydrate Recognition and Signalling (CARB) from Denmark and New Zealand and their collaborators from the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA, have determined how legumes perceive and distinguish compatible bacteria based on the exopolysaccharides featuring on the invading cells’ surfaces.

Using an interdisciplinary approach involving plant and microbial genetics, biochemistry and carbohydrate chemistry, the researchers have identified the first known exopolysaccharide receptor gene, called Epr3.



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