Molecular basis of host adaptation and lifestyle transition in a widespread fungus that colonize plant roots

Complex microbial communities that include bacteria and fungi inhabit roots of healthy plants in nature. Although soil and other local environmental conditions are known to affect root microbiota variation across large spatial scales, specific microbial taxa were recently found to consistently colonize roots of Arabidopsis thaliana at a continental scale. Particularly the fungus Plectosphaerella cucumerina is the most prevalent fungal taxa that associate with roots of A. thaliana in European populations. Here, we aim at characterizing the molecular mechanisms by which this geographically widespread fungus can colonize its host plant and promote growth or cause disease. By using natural genetic variation (>100 strains), experimental evolution, and CRISPR Cas9-mediated genome editing, we aim at identifying and validating important functions that explain host preference, root colonization efficiency, and parasitism-to-commensalism transition.

The project will be supervised by Stéphane Hacquard at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research.

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