Prof. Dr. Alga Zuccaro

Research focus

Currently my research is focused on the mechanisms that enable symbiotic fungi to colonize plants successfully and on the processes accounting for variations in host preferences and fungal lifestyles, especially in mutualistic root endophytes. With respect to insights into how symbiotic fungi establish themselves in metabolically active root cells and how the plants are reprogrammed for enhanced performance, in my group we routinely use integrated approaches that rely on the combination of reverse genetics, transcriptomics, cell biology, biochemistry, and comparative genomics. We propose to analyze the genetics and cell biology of the root endophyte Piriformospora indica, and the closely related orchid mycorrhizal fungus Sebacina vermiferain their symbioses with the model plants barley (monocot) and Arabidopsis (dicot) and to understand the evolutionary mechanisms involved in the establishment of biotrophy. Primary interest is to find answers to the following questions:

  • Which mechanisms allow root endophytes to suppress host defense in a wide range of unrelated plants? Does P. indica and S. vermifera use effector-like molecules in the form of small secreted proteins in order to manipulate different host plants and/or are there other mechanisms like shielding itself in place?
  • Which signals mediate the switch from the biotrophic to the cell death associated phase? And is this latter phase actively triggered by the fungus?
  • What are the basic events involved in the transition from saprotrophic to symbiotic lifestyles?

Most important publications

  1. Wanke A, van Boerdonk S, Mahdi LK, Wawra S, Neidert M, Chandrasekar B, Saake P, Saur IML, Derbyshire P, Holton N, Menke FLH, Brands M, Pauly M, Acosta IF, Zipfel C, Zuccaro A (2023) A GH81-type beta-glucan-binding protein enhances colonization by mutualistic fungi in barley. Curr Biol 33(23):5071-5084 e5077. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.10.048.
  2. Mahdi LK, Miyauchi S, Uhlmann C, Garrido-Oter R, Langen G, Wawra S, Niu Y, Guan R, Robertson-Albertyn S, Bulgarelli D, Parker JE, Zuccaro A (2022) The fungal root endophyte Serendipita vermifera displays inter-kingdom synergistic beneficial effects with the microbiota in Arabidopsis thaliana and barley. ISME J 16(3):876-889. doi: 10.1038/s41396-021-01138-y.
  3.  Chandrasekar B, Wanke A, Wawra S, Saake P, Mahdi L, Charura N, Neidert M, Poschmann G, Malisic M, Thiele M, Stühler K, Dama M, Pauly M, Zuccaro A (2022) Fungi hijack a ubiquitous plant apoplastic endoglucanase to release a ROS scavenging beta-glucan decasaccharide to subvert immune responses. Plant Cell 34(7):2765-2784. doi: 10.1093/plcell/koac114.
  4. Wanke A, Rövenich H, Schwanke F, Velte S, Becker S, Hehemann JH, Wawra S, Zuccaro A (2020) Plant species-specific recognition of long and short beta-1,3-linked glucans is mediated by different receptor systems. Plant J 102(6):1142-1156. doi: 10.1111/tpj.14688.
  5. Sarkar D, Rövenich H, Jeena G, Nizam S, Tissier A, Balcke GU, Mahdi LK, Bonkowski M, Langen G, Zuccaro A (2019) The inconspicuous gatekeeper: endophytic Serendipita vermifera acts as extended plant protection barrier in the rhizosphere. New Phytol 224(2):886-901. doi: 10.1111/nph.15904.
  6. Nizam S, Qiang X, Wawra S, Nostadt R, Getzke F, Schwanke F, Dreyer I, Langen G, Zuccaro A (2019) Serendipita indica E5'NT modulates extracellular nucleotide levels in the plant apoplast and affects fungal colonization. EMBO Rep 20(2). doi: 10.15252/embr.201847430.
  7. Wawra S, Fesel P, Widmer H, Timm M, Seibel J, Leson L, Kesseler L, Nostadt R, Hilbert M, Langen G, Zuccaro A (2016) The fungal-specific beta-glucan-binding lectin FGB1 alters cell-wall composition and suppresses glucan-triggered immunity in plants. Nat Commun 7:13188. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13188.
  8. Kohler A, Kuo A, Nagy LG, Morin E, Barry KW, Buscot F, Canbäck B, Choi C, Cichocki N, Clum A, Colpaert J, Copeland A, Costa MD, Dore J, Floudas D, Gay G, Girlanda M, Henrissat B, Herrmann S, Hess J, Hogberg N, Johansson T, Khouja HR, LaButti K, Lahrmann U, Levasseur A, Lindquist EA, Lipzen A, Marmeisse R, Martino E, Murat C, Ngan CY, Nehls U, Plett JM, Pringle A, Ohm RA, Perotto S, Peter M, Riley R, Rineau F, Ruytinx J, Salamov A, Shah F, Sun H, Tarkka M, Tritt A, Veneault-Fourrey C, Zuccaro A, Mycorrhizal Genomics Initiative C, Tunlid A, Grigoriev IV, Hibbett DS, Martin F (2015) Convergent losses of decay mechanisms and rapid turnover of symbiosis genes in mycorrhizal mutualists. Nat Genet 47(4):410-415. doi: 10.1038/ng.3223.
  9. Lahrmann U, Ding Y, Banhara A, Rath M, Hajirezaei MR, Dohlemann S, von Wiren N, Parniske M, Zuccaro A (2013) Host-related metabolic cues affect colonization strategies of a root endophyte. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110(34):13965-13970. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1301653110.
  10. Zuccaro A, Lahrmann U, Güldener U, Langen G, Pfiffi S, Biedenkopf D, Wong P, Samans B, Grimm C, Basiewicz M, Murat C, Martin F, Kogel KH (2011) Endophytic life strategies decoded by genome and transcriptome analyses of the mutualistic root symbiont Piriformospora indica. PLoS Pathog 7(10):e1002290. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002290.