Distinguished Lec

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Distinguished Lecture Series - Prof. Paul Schulze-Lefert

Start Date: September 20, 2016
End Date: September 20, 2016

DATE: Tuesday September 20, 2016
TIME: 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Lecture Hall Level 0 · between Buildings 2 & 3

We have previously shown that healthy roots of Arabidopsis thaliana, grown in natural soils, are colonized by a bacterial consortium with well-defined taxonomic structure. Members of this root microbiota belong mainly to the phyla Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria (Bulgarelli et al., Nature 2012). A comparison of the bacterial root microbiota of A. thaliana with A. thaliana relatives, grown under controlled environmental conditions or collected from natural habitats, demonstrated a largely conserved microbiota structure with quantitative, rather than qualitative, species-specific footprints (Schläppi et al., PNAS 2014). Unlike this, the root microbiota of monocotyledonous barley and dicotyledonous A. thaliana, grown in the same soil type, revealed a similar overall structure, but with several bacterial taxa uniquely enriched in the Brassicaceae (Bulgarelli et al., Cell Host&Microbe, 2015). This suggests bacterial root microbiota structure is an ancient plant trait that was already present in the last common ancestor of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous plants. We have isolated more than 8000 A. thaliana root- and leaf-associated microbiota members as pure bacterial cultures, representing the majority of A. thaliana microbiota members that are detectable by culture-independent community profiling methods, and generated whole-genome sequence drafts for a core collection of 400 isolates (Bai et al., Nature 2015). I will discuss how we utilize synthetic communities and gnotobiotic plant systems to define principles underlying root microbiota establishment. I will also present our reductionist approaches to examine proposed microbiota functions in plant health.

Bai, Y., Müller, D. B., Srinivas, G., Garrido-Oter, R., Potthoff, E., Rott, M., Dombrowski, N., Münch, P.C., Spaepen, S., Remus-Emsermann, M., Hüttel, B., McHardy, A., Vorholt, J.A., and Schulze-Lefert, P. Functional overlap of the Arabidopsis leaf and root microbiotas. Nature, 2015, doi:10.1038/nature16192.
Bulgarelli, D., Carrido-Oter, R., Münch, P. C., Weiman, A., Dröge, J., Pan, Y., McHardy, A. C., Schulze-Lefert, P.: Structure and functions of the bacterial root microbiota in wild and domesticated barley. Cell Host & Microbe 17, 392-404 (2015).
Schlaeppi, K., Dombrowski, N., Garrido Oter, R., Ver Loren van Themaat, E., & Schulze-Lefert, P. (2014). Quantitative divergence of the bacterial root microbiota in Arabidopsis thaliana relatives. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(2), 585-592.
Bulgarelli, D., Schlaeppi, K., Spaepen, S., Ver Loren van Themaat, E. and Schulze-Lefert, P. (2013) Structure and functions of the bacterial microbiota of plants, Annual Review of Plant Biology Vol. 64, 807-838.
Bulgarelli, D.*, Rott, M.*, Schlaeppi, K.*, Ver Loren van Themaat, E.*, Ahmadinejad, N., Assenza, F., Rauf, P., Huettel, P., Reinhardt, R., Schmelzer, E., Peplies, J., Gloeckner, F.-O., Amann, R., Eickhorst, T. and Schulze-Lefert, P. Revealing structure and assembly cues for Arabidopsis root-inhabiting bacterial microbiota. Nature 488, 91-95 (2012).

Paul Schulze-Lefert was trained in biochemistry and genetics at Marburg, Freiburg, and Cologne Universities, Germany. After a Ph.D. thesis on cis-and trans-acting factors regulating plant gene expression in response to light, he became interested in molecular processes underlying plant-microbe interactions. Major research areas are
• the innate immune system of plants
• mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis
• the plant microbiota
He worked from 1989 to 1990 as postdoctoral fellow in Francesco Salamini’s department at the MPIPZ Cologne on the development of DNA marker technologies in plant genomes. In 1991 he started his own research group at the RWTH Aachen, Germany, with a focus on plant disease resistance mechanisms to fungal pathogens. From 1995 to 2000 he held a senior research position and supervised a research team on plant innate immunity in the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre, England. Since 2000 he is head of the Department of Plant Microbe Interactions at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ), Cologne, and Honorary Professor at the University of Cologne since 2003.
Paul is an elected EMBO member since April 2006, an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA since 2010, an elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina since 2010, and an elected member of the American Academy of Microbiology, USA since 2011.
He is a member of the science advisory board of the Two Blades Foundation and a co-founder and advisor of AgBiome, a for-profit company that explores the crop microbiome to improve plant health.