Sharon Lafferty Doty, Associate Professor of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington, will present a seminar, "Rapid Adaptation of Land Plants to Hostile Environments Through Alterations of the Microbiome", at the ASL on May 9th. The event will be held in Building N239, Room #B39 from 12:00-1:00pm. Refreshments will be provided and you are welcome to bring your lunch.
Evidence points to symbiosis with systemic microorganisms, termed endophytes, as a critical mechanism for non-nodulating plants to thrive in nutrient-poor environments. N-fixation has been quantified in sugarcane, kallar grass, rice, maize, and other mostly tropical plants; however, little is known about N-fixation in more globally widespread trees. Using the early successional tree species poplar as a model system, we quantified N-fixation, using both direct and indirect methods. It was shown that N-fixation occurred at markedly high levels. The leaves, stems, and roots of poplar all contain diazotrophic (N-fixing) endophytes. These can be isolated from within wild poplar plants, grown in pure culture, and introduced to other plants. Endophytes of poplar can colonize not only poplar but also a wide range of plant species, even the evolutionarily distant gymnosperms. Effective colonization results in a variety of benefits to the host including increased growth, drought tolerance, root production, photosynthetic efficiency, and reduction of phytotoxicity of heavy metals and organic pollutants. The relatively long life cycle of plants precludes their rapid adaptation to extreme environments; however, through establishing partnerships with microorganisms adept at rapid evolution, plants can thrive in hostile settings.
Sharon Doty graduated from the University of California, Davis with a B.S. degree in Genetics in 1989. She received her Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Washington in 1995 with Prof. Gene Nester, studying Agrobacterium plant signal perception and responses. She did postdoctoral research in plant biochemistry with Prof. Milt Gordon in the UW Biochemistry Dept., developing transgenic plants with improved phytoremediation capabilities. She joined the UW faculty in 2003 and is currently an Associate Professor in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. Professor Doty is interested in plant microbiology including nitrogen fixation in non-legumes, remediation of pollutants, and biofuel production. Her current research focus is on endophytes, the microorganisms living fully within plants. The microbiome of plants represents a hitherto unexplored diversity of microbial life that may be critical to the growth of plants in challenging environments.