Microbial Induction of Plant Resilience to Drought Stress (MicroRes)
What are the genes and molecular mechanisms involved in bacteria-mediated plant drought tolerance?
- 2022 - 2026
- Salma Balazadeh
- NWO - Nationale Wetenschapsagenda (Dutch Research Agenda)
- Koppert Biological Systems (Netherlands)
- Agro Innovation International Roullier (France)
- Keygene (Netherlands)
- Hudson River Biotechnology (Netherlands)
In the past decade, yields of major food crops worldwide have decreased due to drought. The threat of water scarcity due to climate change and the growing world population drive the urgent need for innovations in sustainable crop production. Over the past years, it has become evident that microorganisms associated with plants can enhance drought tolerance, allowing sustainable crop growth under abiotic stress conditions. In our work we have shown that specific root endophytic bacterial genera can confer drought tolerance to Arabidopsis thaliana. However, the mechanisms by which plant-associated bacteria enhance drought tolerance are largely unknown. To successfully implement these beneficial bacteria in agriculture requires a fundamental understanding of the complex molecular and chemical interplay between bacteria and plants. The prime aim of the MicroRes project is to identify bacterial and plant genes as well as signaling molecules governing drought tolerance of plants by root-associated bacteria. By adopting state-of-the-art meta-analyses to different plant species and by phenotypic and genotypic profiling of a large collection of bacteria from multiple families across the bacterial kingdom, we will identify bacterial traits and core pathways involved in bacteria-plant interactions and obtain a mechanistic understanding of evolutionarily conserved regulatory processes in drought tolerance. Here we adopt a multidisciplinary approach, harnessing complementary expertise in plant stress biology, microbiology, molecular biology and computational biology. The project has three objectives: i) identify bacterial strains that improve drought tolerance of a range of plant species including the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the vegetable tomato, cereals (barley, maize, wheat) and oilseed rape; ii) identify bacterial genes and metabolites that enhance plants’ drought tolerance; and iii) decode gene regulatory networks (GRNs) and metabolic pathways associated with bacteria-mediated drought tolerance using the model plant species Arabidopsis and tomato. Thus, this project will generate fundamental knowledge for future crop varieties with increased drought tolerance and broadens the applications of beneficial bacteria in reducing the impact of drought on agriculture and the global food supply.