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Plant Holobiont Research

Here, the goal is to understand microbial colonisation patterns and highlight plant-microbe interactions

Abiotic stresses and disease pose significant threats to global agriculture and will become more frequent and intense as climate change strengthens . Although numerous reports have explored the genetic, molecular, and physiological basis of the plant response to biotic stress, the nature of plant adaptation to stress remains unresolved. In the lab, we explore two aspects of plant adaptation to biotic stress: 1) plant immune responses and 2) changes in the microbiome, which have fundamental effects on plant plasticity and adaptation as holobiont. Plant microbiomes function as an extension of the plant immune response and affect abiotic stress responses; indeed, the hologenome theory posits that evolutionary selection acts on the combined microbiome and host genomes. The plant holobiont is an assemblage of plant-associated microbes that interact with each other and the host. Plant holobiont interactions are immeasurably complex, but research indicates that hosts play a significant role in selecting microbiome composition and the plant immune response is key to this process. The host’s response to microbes depends on the microbe (pathogen or symbiont); therefore, these responses must be finely tuned to encourage beneficial microbes and discourage harmful microbes. 

Here, we will concentrate on testing for evidence of niche differentiation and to what extend plant immune response influences community assembly and creating a successional model that can predict these niche shifts. It is then possible to predict that if niche differentiation were important in plant microbiome, plant-mediated selections (stage-dependent microbe-microbe interactions) would mediate recruitment and assembly into the microbiome thus, distinct communities would be found predictably for agricultural crops.

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