Science Focus Area: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Principal Investigator and Laboratory Research Manager: Mitchel J. Doktycz1
- Technical Co-Managers: Dale A. Pelletier1 and Timothy J. Tschaplinski1
- Co-Investigators: Paul E. Abraham1, Jin-Gui Chen1, Melissa A. Cregger1, Omar N. Demerdash1, E. Peter Greenberg2, Caroline S. Harwood2, Robert L. Hettich1, Daniel A. Jacobson1, Udaya C. Kalluri1, Stan L. Martin1, Joshua K. Michener1, Jennifer Morrell-Falvey1, Wellington Muchero1, Erica T. Prates1, Mircea Podar1, Priya Ranjan1, Scott T. Retterer1, Tomás A. Rush1, Brian C. Sanders1, Christopher W. Schadt1, Amy L. Schaefer2, Claire Veneault-Fourrey3, Rytas Vilgalys4, David J. Weston1, Xiaohan Yang1, Larry M. York1
- Participating Institutions: 1Oak Ridge National Laboratory; 2University of Washington, 3INRAE (National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment), 4Duke University
- Project Website: pmiweb.ornl.gov
- KBase Collaboration: Exploration of synthetic microbial communities
SummaryThe Plant-Microbe Interfaces (PMI) Science Focus Area (SFA) led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory is directed toward understanding the dynamic interface that exists between plants, microbes, and their environment. This interface is the boundary across which a plant detects, interacts with, and alters its associated biotic and abiotic environment in ways that impact its performance. Project efforts focus on revealing the mechanistic bases underpinning the selection of symbiotic plant-microbe partnerships, assessing how the physical and chemical environment structures the host plant’s microbiome, and determining how microbial community composition and host genetics combine to respond to environmental challenges. For example, various tree species of the genus Populus, such as those commonly known as eastern cottonwood, black cottonwood, and aspen, serve as hosts to diverse microbial associates and make for an ideal experimental platform. This genus of fast-growing tree species is a leading candidate for bioenergy production and a dominant perennial component of many North American temperate forests. PMI research seeks to define the relationships among Populus spp. and their microbiomes in natural settings, dissect the molecular signals and gene-level responses of the organisms to changing conditions, and rebuild the complexity of these systems using sequence-characterized plants and microbes. Extensive, project-derived collections of diverse, genome-defined hosts and microbial species are leveraged for relating functional events to genomic information. Measurement and interpretation of these complex systems are facilitated using advanced analytical tools and computational approaches. Ultimately, an improved fundamental understanding of plant-microbe interfaces will enable the use of indigenous or engineered biological systems to address challenges as diverse as bioenergy production, environmental remediation, and carbon cycling and sequestration. Specifically, elucidating the mechanisms involved in the exchange and transformation of energy, information, and materials across interfaces will be critical for interpreting and predicting environmental responses based on genomic signatures.