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Previously active projects in Plant Molecular Biology

An overview of now-completed projects in the Plant Molecular Biology group (since 2021). For more information about the projects, please contact the project leader responsible.

For a list of current projects, please return to the main research group page.

NCHAIN: Forging stronger links in the organic nitrogen chain.

In agriculture, nitrogen (N) is an important macronutrient critical for plant yield. Without access to synthetic N fertilizers, many Danish organic farmers face a severe challenge in providing sufficient amounts of nitrogen for optimal crop yield. The main N contribution often comes from clover/grass swards, which both generate feed for livestock and provide N fertilization and soil improvement for successive crops in a crop rotation scheme. The N chain in this production system has four main links: 1) Symbiotic N2 fixation by rhizobia; 2) Transfer of fixed N to legume hosts (clover); 3) Transfer of fixed N to other plant species (grasses); 4) Transfer of plant N to cattle. Overall, the efficiency depends heavily on interspecies interactions between rhizobium/clover and clover/grass. The state of the art is to assume that rhizobia already present in the soil provide effective nitrogen fixation with all clover varieties: essentially, that genetic variation between rhizobia is insignificant or that optimal rhizobia for all clover varieties are present in all soils. In terms of plant interactions, it is assumed that the performance of clover and grass varieties determined in monoculture reflects their performance as mixed crops. We hypothesize that gains in N fixation and biomass yield can be obtained using genomic prediction of interspecies interactions, and we will test this hypothesis by capturing and analyzing genotype and phenotype data for rhizobium/clover/grass crops.

NCHAIN provided funding to Stig U. Andersen and was funded by the Innovation Fund Denmark, 2015 – 2020.

For more information about this project, please contact Stig U Andersen (sua@mbg.au.dk).


NORFAB (NORthern FABa) is a consortium of Northern hemisphere groups with key expertise in Faba beans who aim to develop sophisticated genomics-based plant breeding methods and provide access to germplasm with the relevant genetic diversity. NORFAB aims to improve the yield and quality of faba bean seeds in order to make them a competitive protein crop in northern European and Canadian/US northern prairie conditions. Research on Faba bean genomics and genetics will be developed using new genotyping and phenotyping methodologies and new hybrid approaches combining genomic selection with QTL mapping and gene introgression. The methods for genomics-based breeding will be developed by the university partners and implemented by the industry partners involved in the project. The approach will target multigene control of seed quality, content of protein, fiber and antinutritional factors along with agronomical traits.

The NORFAB project provides funding to Stig U. Andersen and Jens Stougaard through an  Innovation Fund Denmark Grand Solutions grant, 2016-2021.

For more information about this project, please contact Jens Stougaard (stougaard@mbg.au.dk).

ProFaba: Developing improved Vicia faba breeding practices and varieties to drive domestic protein production in the European Union.

ProFaba aims to boost protein production in Europe by improving faba bean (Vicia faba) as a European protein crop, thereby contributing to a more balanced and protein-self-sufficient agricultural system. The project brings together experts in a variety of fields to tackle the main obstacles to faba bean success as a protein crop. Using a collaborative approach focusing on common resources, ProFaba will build a common reference and data repository for faba genome, genotype, and phenotype data, ensuring easy communication throughout the faba community. These resources will be leveraged by developing common diversity panels and breeding lines, phenotyped for agronomic traits in five European locations. This will allow deciphering the genomic architecture of faba traits, understanding genotype by environment interactions, and direct incorporation of this knowledge into active, predictive breeding programs through the participating breeders from Denmark, Germany, France and Spain.

ProFaba provided funding to Stig U. Andersen and was funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No [771134]. 2019 – 2022

For more information about this project, please contact Stig U Andersen (sua@mbg.au.dk).

Carbohydrate signalling during plant root microbiota establishment

Intensive agricultural systems can secure the necessary crop yields for food supply of a growing human population. However, they rely heavily on resources that have negative impacts on ecosystems. Research and exploitation of biologicals emerged as a sustainable alternative, but this approach is currently less efficient and therefore needs to be revisited and suitable alternatives identified. The study combined genetics, metagenomics and (meta)transcriptomics strategies across two legumes and two cereal crops to determine the role of exopolysaccharide signaling for plant colonization by endophytic members of Burkholderiales and Rhizobiales. This was used as a genetic framework to identify bacterial pathways associated with recognition of bacterial exopolysaccharides. Together this established a toolbox for accessing the compatibility of soil microbes and evaluating microbial communities prior to their development as biologicals with beneficial effects on plant hosts.

This project provided funding to Simona Radutoiu and Simon Kelly and was funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark | Nature and Universe. 2019 – 2022.

For more information about this project please contact Simona Radutoiu (radutoiu@mbg.au.dk)

Identifying functional determinants of specificity in receptor kinases signaling

In this project we employed a structural approach in combination with phylogenetics of key plant lineages to predict and model candidates for immunity or symbiosis determinants of specificity (DoS) in CERK6 and NFR1 protein kinases. Their predicted functions were tested and outlined biochemically and in vivo in genetically characterized plant backgrounds. This strategy enabled us to decouple immunity and symbiosis at the molecular level and gain a mechanistic understanding of how similar kinases drive opposing pathways in the same cell leading to specific whole plant responses.

This project provided funding to Simona Radutoiu and Kasper R. Andersen and was funded by the Novo Nordisk Fonden, 2019 – 2022.

For more information about this project please contact Simona Radutoiu (radutoiu@mbg.au.dk) or Kasper Røjkjær Andersen (kra@mbg.au.dk)

Nanobody-driven signal modulation of symbiotic plants LysM receptors

This project provided funding to Kasper R. Andersen and was funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark | Nature and Universe. 2019 – 2023.

For more information about this project, please contact Kasper Røjkjær Andersen (kra@mbg.au.dk).

FabuLOX: A Genomics-Driven Approach to Improving Faba Bean Food and Processing Utility through Reduced Lipoxygenase (LOX) Activity

We will address a key limit to food use of faba bean – lipid oxidation that generates unpalatable “beany” flavors – by targeting the key enzyme responsible, lipoxygenase (LOX). LOX catalyzes fatty acid oxidation to volatiles, especially in wet processes such as protein isolation and dough making. We will annotate the genes in the new faba bean genome sequence and, combined with gene expression data, identify the key LOX for knockout. Data generated from genome annotation will provide a basis for attacking other important goals in faba bean improvement, including disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, and interactions with nitrogen fixing rhizobia. Through our Nordic (NORFAB) and European (Suscrop PROFABA) networks, pre-competitive sharing of the genomic information we generate, applied to a common set of diverse faba bean lines, will ensure that Nordic and European breeders can address the key challenges faced by local growers to increase faba competitiveness to generate a more balanced and protein-self-sufficient agricultural system that takes full advantage of biological nitrogen fixation.

This project is funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation 2021–2023.

For more information on this project, contact Stig Uggerhøj Andersen (sua@mbg.au.dk).