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About Patricia Zecua and her project

Patricia obtained her Master’s degree in Molecular Biotechnology at the Technical University of Munich. During her Master thesis she studied the role of endogenous plant signaling peptides on plant immunity; in particular, endogenous peptides that regulate immune signaling as well as growth and developmental processes. She is interested in plant-fungal interactions and the molecular mechanisms that allow colonization by beneficial fungal endophytes. The main objective of her PhD is to dissect plant cell death signaling pathways that exert an effect on fungal colonization.

Role of plant host cell death signaling pathways in plant-fungal symbiosis

Serendipita indica (syn. Piriformospora indica) is a mutualistic root symbiont able to colonize through a biphasic strategy root epidermal and cortex cells of a large number of plant hosts, including the dicotyledonous model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Colonization by S. indica is characterized by an early biotrophic phase which is followed by a restricted and controlled host cell death-associated phase, essential for successful fungal accommodation (Deshmukh et al., 2006; Zuccaro et al., 2011; Qiang et al., 2012; Lahrmann et al., 2013).

Recent research aiming to identify S. indica secreted effectors during root colonization identified an ecto-5’- nucleotidase, which is capable of modulating extracellular nucleotide levels in the apoplast and thus plays a key role during plant–S. indica interaction (Nizam et al., 2019).

The molecular mechanisms by which S. indica induces root cell death and mediates crosstalk with plant cell death signaling pathways remain poorly understood. Therefore, Patricia will analyse the contribution of different cell death pathways in fungal-root interactions. She also aims to characterize induced cell death features, including the timing and the identification of common cell death components in different plant hosts. Ultimately, these results will provide a better understanding of cell death during colonization by root endophytes.