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Molecular recognition of plant-microbe interaction



Project  I: Chitooligosaccharide (COs) and Lipochitooligosaccharide (LCO) recognition

Chitin is the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, found in crustacean shells, insect exoskeletons and fungal cell walls, and it is a β1-4 linked polymer of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine (GlcNAc). In this unmodified form, chitooligosaccharides [degree of polymerization (dp)=6-8)] are strong inducers of plant innate immunity. In contrast, when these chitooligosaccharides are acylated (so called lipochitooligosaccharides, LCO) and further modified they can act as Nod factors, the key signaling molecules that play an important role in the initiation of the legume-rhizobium symbiosis. In a similar form, these molecules can also act as Myc factors, the key signaling molecules involved in the arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) symbiosis. The structural similarity between Nod/Myc factors and chitin raises the question how these similar molecules could induce apparently opposite responses in plants.
Project II: Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) recognition
Lipopolysaccharides (endotoxin) is abundant in the outer cell envelope of Gram-negative bacteria. In pathogenic bacteria, LPS acts as a MAMP that induces plant innate immune responses in various plant species, whereas rhizobial LPS might have been modified to adapt to the establishment of symbiotic relationship with legume species. Our lab will try to understand how plants recognize pathogenic LPS and how legumes have evolved to recognize rhizobial LPS.