Visiting Scholar: Ekaterina Kozaeva (University of Copenhagen)

Stanford Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Brophy (Bioengineering)


Accessing host reliance potential through microbial interactions using a synthetic community during abiotic stress

Microbes orchestrate nearly all major biochemical processes and can adapt to constantly changing environmental conditions, collaborating with each other and other organisms. Plants are an excellent system to study host-microbial interactions, as they serve as hosts to numerous microorganisms, representing a complex, dynamic process shaped by billions of years of evolution. While root-associated consortia proved to have profound effects on plant physiology, the knowledge of microbial interactions associated with industrially important crops is still limited. In this project, we will create a complex microbial community in vitro for one of the most crucial crops for humanity – wheat Triticum aestivum – to probe interactions involved in plant development and stress tolerance. By adapting a synthetic community to environmental stresses, we aim to identify the key players, specific molecules, and microorganisms, involved in response to abiotic factors and wheat resilience. The resulting microbial community will be developed in collaboration with microbiome experts at Stanford Bioengineering, to generate the most impactful well-defined wheat consortia. Using cutting-edge techniques established in Prof. Brophy’s lab for plant monitoring, community engineering and microbial growth pattern analysis, Ekaterina will (i) characterize consortia-dependent development of wheat seedlings – one of the most crucial growth stages to abiotic stress, and (ii) engineer and evolve a community during environmental stresses. With help from Prof. Sørensen's group, experts in microbiome research (including plant-associated communities and established bioinformatics platform), Ekaterina will (iii) identify core microbes involved in mediating abiotic stress in wheat. A better understanding of associated cell-cell interaction complexity, and new approaches of community analysis construction, will allow us to increasingly discover new ways to provide microbial solutions for human well-being and planet health.