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Dr Ronelle Roth

Senior Research Associate
Dr Ronelle Roth
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 330216

Research Interests

My research aims to understand the mechanisms that underlie beneficial plant-fungal communication through innovative cell biology and molecular genetics approaches

Most land plants, including key crops, form life-long mutualistic partnerships with soil-borne arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. The widespread occurrence of this symbiosis is a consequence of a plant-fungal dialogue that evolved concurrent with vascular land plants over 400-million-years ago. Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis involves a reciprocal trade in nutrients where plant organic carbon is exchanged for essential fungal-derived minerals, greatly improving plant productivity through enhanced nutrient uptake.

Central to arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis are intracellular, highly branched fungal arbuscules that form deep inside roots. As fungal arbuscules enter root cells they are surrounded by a host-derived membrane, which creates a large surface area for nutrient exchange and a shared interstitial space into which nutrients and signalling molecules are delivered. A surprising feature of arbuscules is their short life-span of 2-3 days. This raises the question of how nutrient trade and plant-fungal communication is coordinated in this highly dynamic interaction.

Using ultrastructural tomography and 3-D reconstruction I recently made the exciting discovery that membrane-enclosed nano-structures, called extracellular vesicles, are present in the shared space between the plant and fungal arbuscule (Roth et al, 2019). In animals, extracellular vesicles play a role in inter-cellular communication by transporting diverse cargoes between cells and organisms. In plants, however, their function is less well understood.

Building on my discovery my future research aims to understand the function of extracellular vesicle cargoes including small RNAs in this beneficial endosymbiosis.  Given that AM symbiosis is so widespread, determining the cell biology and molecular mechanisms that underlie beneficial plant-fungal interactions will provide crucial knowledge needed to design new innovations for improved agricultural productivity in many important crops. 


Horizon 202

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