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Genomic Science Program

2013 Awardee

Functional manipulation of root endophyte populations for feedstock improvement

INVESTIGATORS: Dangl, JL; Pelletier, DA; Weston, DJ

INSTITUTIONS: UNC-Chapel Hill, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The overall goal of the proposed research is to utilize genomics, genetics, and physiology to understand how endophytic bacteria alter plant growth and productivity. It is increasingly clear that a variety of plant functions and traits are co-dependent on the microbial community that exists within and around them, especially the communities associated with the plant root system (rhizosphere). One specific avenue for improvement in plant feedstock productivity is to 'let the plant tell us' what microbial species from the complex soil metagenome are functionally relevant for plant productivity.

OBJECTIVES: Aim 1 – Define microbe-mediated re-colonization and extended phenotypic traits that are robust across multiple host plant species. Here, we will take any of several hundred microbial strains previously isolated from inside the roots of either poplar trees or the model plant Arabidopsis either alone or in 'communities' of up to 200 and we will ask whether they can re-colonize the inside of roots under carefully established lab conditions. We will also monitor whether and how these strains alter plant shoot and root growth. Ultimately, one can imagine that we will be able to mix bacteria that would help a plant be productive under specific soil nutritional conditions. Aim 2 – Uncover and understand how host plant genotype contributes to endophyte community assembly. We deploy many different genetic backgrounds of our feedstock plants. We do not yet know whether the genetic composition of a particular plant contributes to its ability to be colonized by beneficial bacteria. The species of plants that we have chosen for this project represent the best models for plant genomics-based definition of genes that control colonization. We will address whether differences in plant genetic make-up control the ability of beneficial bacteria to colonize and alter plant performance.

APPROACH: Our goal is to ultimately manipulate plant performance for feedstock production. In this project, we will utilize two large, and expanding, sets of endophytic bacterial strains and three diverse hosts (Arabidopsis, poplar, and a model grass called Setaria viridis), chosen with explicit reference to both excellent (or emerging) genetic and genomic resources and bioenergy feedstock relevance. With careful experimentation, these resources will allow us to understand if plant performance phenotype in association with microbial communities translates across plant species in a predictable manner.

Name: Dangl, J.
Phone: 919-962-4469
Fax: 979-962-1625


Name: Pelletier, D.
Phone: 865-576-2857
Fax: 865-241-1555


Name: Weston, D.
Phone: 865-241-8323
Fax: 865-574-5353



Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy[01/18]

Basic Research Opportunities in Genomic Science to Advance the Production of Biofuels and Bioproducts from Plant Biomass White Paper [6/15]

Lignocellulosic Biomass for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts: Workshop Report [2/15]

Sustainable Bioenergy [05/14]

USDA/DOE Plant Feedstocks Genomics for Bioenergy Program: Project Director / Principal Investigator Meeting [01/14]

Switchgrass Research Group: Progress Report [1/12]