Engineering synthetic symbioses between plants and bacteria to deliver nitrogen to crops

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


Availability of nitrogen (N) is one of the principal elements limiting growth and development of crops, particularly in agricultural soils for plant production of food, feed, fibre and fuel. Nature solved the N-limitation problem via evolution of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) in bacteria (called diazotrophs), which reduce atmospheric N2 to ammonia (NH3) that is assimilated into biological molecules. This project will develop a novel model system using the C4-grass Setaria viridis (Setaria), and its interaction with both a model endophyte (Rhizobium sp. IRBG74) and an associative bacterium, (Pseudomonas fluorescens Pf-5). Synthetic biology will be used to genetically alter Setaria and the two bacteria to ensure a lock and key interaction between plant and microbe, while maximizing nitrogen fixation by the bacteria and delivery of ammonium to the plant.


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