One of our current main goals is to understand the spatio-temporal sequence of events that is required for intracellular colonization of host cells. For this, we are using the model legumes Medicago truncatula and Lotus japonicus and their corresponding symbionts Sinorhizobium meliloti and Mesorhizobium loti, respectively. These bacteria colonize their host predominantly via root hair infection. Although a large number of signalling components including the host receptors that perceive the microbial signalling molecules, the Nod Factors (NF), and a significant number of essential components of the signalling cascade downstream of NF perception have been identified, our knowledge on factors regulating membrane and cell wall dynamics remains limited.
Being a partner within the international ‘Engineering Nitrogen-Fixing Symbiosis for Africa’ (ENSA) our research focusses on the identification and characterization of novel components that are ultimately required to reach our final goal: Engineering crop plants for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa that are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen. These plants could be grown independent of expensive and environmentally harmful industrial fertilizers and should be one factor to improve their living conditions.