In nature, plants engage in multiple interactions with a broad range of other organisms, from microbes and insects through vertebrates to other plants. While some organisms are detrimental, others form mutualistic interactions with their host plants. Plant responses to all these organisms have been traditionally studied separately for aboveground and for belowground domains. However, nowadays it is widely accepted that changes in plants induced by interactions belowground have cascading effects on plant interactions with organisms that live aboveground, and vice versa and require long-distance communication in plants.
In this project we aim to investigate signalling in plants which have two types of interactions in parallel: a mutualistic arbuscular mycorrhiza (symbiosis) in the roots and shoot herbivores. The main goal of this project is the identification of the main signaling pathways controlling and affecting both interacting organisms by each other.
In order to reach the objective, we will address the following questions:
1." To which extent is root-to-shoot-to-root signaling required for a functional AM symbiosis?
2." How does an established AM symbiosis affect shoot herbivory and vise versa?
3." What are the main signals traveling from aboveground to mycorrhizal roots?
4." What are the main signals traveling from mycorrhizal roots to aboveground organs?
By making use of an integrative combination of state-of-the-art omics technologies (transcriptomics, metabolomics analyses), Laser Capture microdissection and microcosm bioassays, we aim to investigate the main signaling pathways and the major mobile signals involved in plant mediated communication between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and shoot herbivores. The project integrates state of the art molecular and biochemical tools, to better understand how plants interact simultaneously with beneficial microbes and herbivores.