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5.4 Root-fungus interactions

1. Research Domain
FUNCT Functional Plant Biology
2. Research Domain
MICRO Plant-Microbe Systems
3. Research Domain
QUALITY Plant Quality and Food Security
4. Research Domain
HORTSYS Next-Generation Horticultural Systems

Roots supply critical mineral elements and water to the plant as well as serving the purpose to stabilise and anchor the plant in the soil. An important prerequisite for these tasks are the development of a healthy root system undamaged by the influence of pathogens. The objective of this research area is to elucidate how endophytic fungi support the function of root Systems.

The mineral nutrient supply of plants is the basis of plant growth. Many plants accomplish this supply in partnership with fungal endophytes which receive in return carbohydrates. The first project will analyse the regulation of fungal mineral uptake from substrates and hyphal transport of these resources towards the plant. For this purpose microbiological, physiological, and molecular biological methods will be applied to the model fungi Rhizophagus irregularis (forming arbuscular mycorrhiza) and Piriformospora indica (not forming classical mycorrhiza). On the other hand, gas exchange measurements combined with analyses of metabolites will contribute to our understanding of carbon fluxes from photosynthesis over distribution inside the plant up to the fungal metabolism.

Soil-bourne pathogens are difficult to confine and little is known about their interaction with plants. It could, however, be shown that roots colonised by mycorrhizal fungi are more resistant against such pathogens. In frame of the second project of this research area, experimental systems for analysing trifold interactions between plants, pathogens, and mutualistic root endophytes will be further optimised. Plant genes that are specifically expressed when roots are protected by root endophytes will be identified. These candidate genes will then be functionally characterised.

Root endophytic fungi are a connecting point between plants and their environment. Results of the focus program will support targeted application of such fungi in plant cultivation. Challenged by a society in flux and by changing environmental conditions, this application could be an important component of future management systems, where healthy vegetables and pleasant ornamentals should be produced in an economical and ecologically sustainable manner.

Further projects supported by third-party funds or carried out by scholarship-holders deal with the impact of fungal endophytes on plant tolerance for abiotic stress. These projects are mainly focused on problems coming from heavy metal contaminations or high salt concentration in soils.

Current Project

2013 - 2018

Mycorrhiza-induced resistance

Other Projects

Nutrient exchange in root-fungus interactions

The supply of plants with mineral nutrients is the basis of their growt...

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