The rhizosphere as a model system for studying co-evolving interactions among species
April 8, 2012
Academic Building A G008, 5:00 PM
Co-evolving interactions between the plant and its deleterious or pathogenic microorganisms are often referred to as an ‘arms race’ or the ‘Red Queen scenario’. These continuous offensive and defensive interactions between species can potentially yield a rhizosphere enrichedin metagenomes containing the blueprints for a vast array of natural products. We aim to demonstrate that soil microbial communities co-evolving with their plant hosts serve as genetic reservoirs for biosynthetically produced plant inhibitory compounds. Activity-based screening of soil metagenomic libraries will allow us to isolate small molecules produced in vector-host expression systems containing the large-insert DNA fragments extracted from the target plant rhizospheres. A combination of cultivation-dependent and cultivation-independent methods is elucidating the functional roles of microorganisms inhabiting the rhizosphere. We will discuss experiments in progress that illustrate the impact of soil microorganisms on plant development and fitness.
Jenny Kao-Kniffin received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Land Resources, with a specialization in Ecosystem Microbiology. She received her Master’s degree in Biological Sciences and Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Dr. Kao-Kniffin’s doctoral work examined the identity and function of rhizosphere microorganisms associated with invasive weeds and native plants. She then served as Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the National Science Foundation (NSF) on a project that investigated landscape-scale patterns of microbial composition and activity in the Arctic Coastal Plain near Barrow, Alaska. Dr. Kao-Kniffin joined the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University in 2010 to examine the ecology of urban ecosystems, with a focus on plant-microbial interactions.