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Canadian Society of Microbiologists Untitled 1

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MEMBERSHIP  ::  Meet the Microbiologist

Meet the Microbiologist

Plant-Microbe Interaction

Agricultural soils are complicated systems with multidimensional interaction between plants, soil physical and chemical properties and soil microbiota. Soil microbial communities have a profound effect on soil fertility and plant health. In turn plants can shape soil and rhizosphere microbiota by secreting nutrients and phytoalexins, which can act as microbial attractants or/and antagonists. The situation becomes more complicated in the soils used for agricultural crop production. Application of fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, used in conventional agriculture, has a dramatic effect on diversity and function of soil microbial communities. While the goal of these agricultural practices is to increase plant production, they might have a diverse effect on the plant health by decreasing the diversely and shifting functionality of soil microbial populations and as a result repressing plant growth promoting microbiota. Our research is focused on understanding the effects of different types of agricultural practices on diversity and function of soil microbial communities, which would help to develop new approaches for improvement of plant fitness and production and soil health and fertility.

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Svetlana Yurgel

Rhizobium-legume symbiotic association 
Sinorhizobium meliloti is a versatile free-living bacterium that can also be the bacterial partner in a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with Medicago plants. This fascinating system is an excellent model for studying a particular type of bacterial interaction with a eukaryotic host, one in which the commensal relationship is not only tolerated but is beneficial. What makes the system even more interesting is the fact that plant symbionts like S. meliloti and phylogenetically related α- proteobacterial pathogens share similar requirements for their prolonged intercellular survival, making S. meliloti an attractive surrogate to study the mechanism of bacterial pathogenesis. My research interests are focused on factors influencing effectiveness of Rhizobium–legume associations and bacterial symbiotic behavior, such as infection and plant-growth promotion. Our goal is to understand the dynamics of the symbiotic relationship. Effectively manipulating the symbiosis for improved production will require understanding of the rules governing this kind of interaction.

Flavin metabolism in α-proteobacteria
The prolonged use in antimicrobial treatments has triggered a rapid development of bacterial populations resistant to virtually all existing antibiotics. This brings the need to develop a new generation of drugs that target enzymes on specific bacterial biosynthetic pathways as a high priority in biomedical research. Many pathogens cannot import riboflavin, the vitamin B2, from the environment, and therefore depend on their own riboflavin biosynthetic pathway for growth. The goal of this research is a comprehensive analysis of the S. meliloti riboflavin biosynthetic pathway with further extension onto understanding of the role of the pathway in invasive α- proteobacteria.

Bacterial and Fungal Diversity in Natural and Managed Ecosystems
This research is focused on understanding the effects of different types of agricultural practices on diversity and function of soil microbial communities, which would help to develop new approaches for improvement of soil health and fertility. The combination of the massive next-generation based DNA sequencing with comprehensive bioinformatics analysis of microbial communities derived from native and managed ecosystems can provide a deeper understanding of the microbial responses to land-use changes.

Our research employs molecular genetic, biochemical, transcriptomic and metagenomic approaches to uncover the mechanisms of beneficial interaction between plants and microbial populations in soils. We are studying the nutrient exchange in rhizobium legume association and the factors affecting the efficiency symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Our research program involves an examination of vitamin biosynthesis in α-proteobacteria and its role on bacteria-eukaryote interaction. We are also interested in the dynamic and function of soil microbial communities in natural and managed ecosystems. The goal of this research is to better understand the nature of plant growth promoting effects of soil microbes on plant health and fitness, which will promote the development of efficient and sustainable agricultural practice. If you are considering graduate work in the near future or want to know more about our research please contact Dr. Yurgel directly.


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Contact Information
Dalhousie University
P.O. Box 550, Truro, Nova Scotia
Truro,  B2N 5E3

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Ottawa, ON K1G 4S3

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