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About Debika Sarkar and her project

Debika was interested in knowing how mycorrhiza help crop plants to sustain fungal stress. Her work was to characterize the molecular mechanism underlying the fungal beneficial effects of Sebacinales in monocotyledonous plants.

Characterization of the molecular mechanisms underpinning fungal beneficial effects in roots

The basidiomycete Serendipita vermifera (MAFF 305830) is a root endophyte and an orchid mycorrhizal fungus that displays wide-host spectrum beneficial effects, such as growth promotion and increased resistance to pathogens. The genome of S. vermifera was sequenced in cooperation with the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek (CA), USA in the frame of the sequencing program "Exploring the genome diversity of mycorrhizal fungi". On the other hand, the ascomycete Bipolaris sorokiniana (ND90Pr), teleomorph Cochliobolus sativus, is a serious pathogen affecting cereal crops, especially wheat and barley. The common root rot and leaf spot blotch diseases caused by B. sorokiniana are declared to be the major disease constraint limiting wheat production in warmer regions worldwide. The importance of root-inhabiting plant pathogenic fungi has often been underestimated and therefore, very little is known about the molecular mechanism behind the detrimental interaction of B. sorokiniana with roots. Primary aim of this study was the detailed molecular and functional characterization of the mechanisms underpinning increased resistance of the barley plant to infection by the pathogenic fungus B. sorokiniana by the symbiotic root endophyte S. vermifera and the identification of the processes basal to fungal root colonization in barley by pathogenic and beneficial fungi. In particular we wanted to understand how S. vermifera manipulates the immune system of the plant in order to increase its resistance to pathogen infection and which other mechanisms like fungus-fungus antagonism are in place.