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Mechanisms of specificity during symbiosis signalling (SYMBIOSIS)
Start date: May 1, 2008, End date: Apr 30, 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The availability of nitrogen and phosphate are the major limitations to plant growth and many species of plants have entered symbiotic interactions with microbial partners that aid in the uptake of these nutrients from the surrounding environment. Legumes form symbiotic interactions with mycorrhizal fungi that aid in the uptake of phosphate and with nitrogen fixing rhizobial bacteria that provide the plant with a source of nitrogen in the form of ammonium. A better understanding of these symbiotic processes will provide opportunities to improve and expand these symbiotic interactions in important crop species, which could greatly enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability. In both of these symbiotic interactions signal exchange between the plant and the symbiont is crucial for the establishment of the interaction. While these two symbioses initiate very different developmental responses in the plant, they share a common symbiosis signalling pathway, that is involved in the recognition of the symbiotic signalling molecules. Despite this conservation in signalling, specificity must be maintained in order to ensure appropriate responses in the plant to the two different symbionts. Calcium acts as a central secondary messenger in the symbiosis signalling pathway and we have evidence suggesting the nature of the calcium signature defines the mechanism of specificity. This proposal will address how the two symbionts are differentially perceived and the mechanisms by which the calcium signal can define specific symbiotic responses, despite this conservation in the signalling pathway.

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