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Department of Plant Sciences

Led by Dr Jeongmin Choi, the Plant Nutrient Research Group based at the Crop Science Centre investigates nutrient signalling in mycorrhizal symbiosis. Nutrient intake is a fundamental aspect of life. Therefore, every organism needs to acquire sufficient nutrient provision from the environment to carry out a healthy life cycle. This requires highly sophisticated biological communication systems linking individual cells to the entire organism. To do so, nutrient have evolved to act as both metabolites and signalling molecules. As sessile organisms, plants have developed complex systems to maintain nutrient sensing and signalling mechanisms to ensure their survival within a confined space and changing environment. In nature, plants are in constant contact with microorganisms, including fungi. Fascinatedly, palaeontology and evolutionary studies have shown that plants have been associated with mutually beneficial fungi, arbuscular mycorrhizae, to maximize nutrient uptake for millions of years.
My research group focuses on the molecular mechanisms underpinning how nutrient signalling regulates arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis in crops. The long-term goal of our research is to help improve crop nutrient uptake to limit our dependency on environmental costly fertilizers. We believe our research will provide solutions to global food security at a minimal financial and environmental cost. Current projects include:


Phosphorus and nitrogen signalling in arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis

In nutrient poor conditions, plants launch phosphorus and nitrogen signalling programs to maximize nutrient uptake while maintaining homeostasis. This is the condition where plants engage with symbiotic microbes. We will explore how these nutrient sensing and signalling pathways are integrated into cellular programs that benefit both the plant and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.


Plasticity of host susceptibility to arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis

In addition to nutrient status, many environmental factors also regulate the host susceptibility to arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses. Understanding factors and mechanisms regulating this process will help us utilize symbiosis in a dynamic and broader range of environmental settings, which will become increasing important as global climate change becomes more unpredictable.

Joining the group

Contact Head of Group Dr Jeongmin Choi if you're interested in joining the group or finding out more about the group's research.