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Genetic and Cellular Dissection of Mutualistic Plant-Microbe Symbioses in Medicago truncatula

Posted by | February 21, 2021

Principal investigators:

  • Rujin Chen
  • Michael Udvardi
  • Kiran Mysore
  • Rebecca Dickstein
  • Maria Harrison
  • Janine Sherrier

Associated with:

  • The Noble Research Institute
  • University of North Texas
  • The Boyce Thompson Institute
  • University of Delaware

Project Summary:

Legumes have been an integral part of agricultural systems for thousands of years and are second only to grasses in importance for modern agriculture. Legume crops capacitate sustainable agriculture and global food security today because these plants establish two beneficial symbioses that minimize the requirement for energy-expensive and polluting N- and P-fertilizers. Specifically, symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia supplies legumes with reduced nitrogen while symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi supplies legumes with phosphate and other growth limiting mineral nutrients. Development and differentiation of nitrogen-fixing (NF) and AM symbioses require coordinated changes in the expression of thousands of plant and bacterial or fungal genes. While tremendous advances have been made recently in our understanding of plant-microbe signaling during the early stages of the legume-rhizobia and legume-AM fungal interactions, relatively little is known about the genetic basis of later stages of symbiosis development which have a great impact on the efficacy of these symbioses for agriculture. This project establishes a Virtual Center for Symbiosis Research consisting of six groups at four organizations that are at the cutting-edge of NF and AM research and genomic, genetic, molecular and cell biology resource development for legumes. The major objectives of the project include: the systematic discovery of new genes required for NF and AM symbiosis using established resources for forward- and reverse-genetics; the development of advanced genetic resources and databases for high-throughput gene function discovery in legumes; and the development of facile resources for cell and molecular biology in Medicago. It is the hope that this project will accelerate basic discovery and contribute to knowledge and the resource base for delivering system-level models and comprehensive understanding of NF and AM symbioses in the future.


Link(s):  Transcriptome data will be deposited and accessible through public repositories that include ArrayExpress Database (, and the Medicago Gene Expression Atlas ( All sequence data related to flanking sequence tags (FSTs) associated with Tnt1 insertions can be accessed through the project website at