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McCully Lecture: Dr. Maria J. Harrison

April 26, 2019 at 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM

Location:3275 Mackenzie
Audience:Alumni, Anyone, Carleton Community, Current Students, Faculty, Media, Prospective Students, Staff

Reprogramming root cells for arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis

Lecture begins at 2:30 pm.

Coffee and tea will be served at 2:00 pm and snacks after the lecture ends.

Abstract: Most vascular flowering plants have the ability to form endosymbiotic associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi through which they gain access to mineral nutrients while providing carbon to the fungal symbiont.  Development of the symbiosis is complex and is initiated by signal exchange that enables growth of the fungus into the root and subsequently into the root cortical cells.  Here, reorganization of the cortical cell, coordinated with terminal differentiation of the fungus results in a branched hypha called an arbuscule, enveloped in the plant periarbuscular membrane. This interface is the site of nutrient exchange between the symbionts. Through a phylogenomic profiling approach we have identified a set of plant genes (~ 138 genes) conserved for AM symbiosis that we predict should play significant roles in symbiotic development and/or function. Initial evidence suggests that this prediction is true, and in several cases these genes function aspects of root cell biology or metabolism to enable accommodation of the fungus within the cell.  Recent progress in these areas will be discussed.

Dr. Maria Harrison, Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Cornell University. Dr. Harrison received her B.Sc. degree from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK in 1984 and her Ph.D. from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in 1987. In 2003, Dr. Harrison was appointed to the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University where she is William H. Crocker Professor. Dr. Harrison is a pioneering plant biologist who studies how plants and fungi form symbiotic relationships to trade crucial nutrients that promote the survival of both species. She is especially well known for her work on arbuscular mycorrhizal soil fungi, which adopt a relationship with an estimated 80% of vascular plant families. Ultimately, this basic understanding will make it possible to better deploy symbiosis in the field for sustainable agriculture.