Dr Carmen Sanchez Canizares

Research Interests

Shaping microbial physiology through cross-talk between regulatory networks

The research focus of the group is beneficial soil microbes. They influence plant growth, soil health, and resource use efficiency. When selected microbes are applied as bioinoculants, they improve plant nutritional status and protect against biotic and abiotic stresses. Unravelling the net result of tightly regulated microbial activities is key to understanding microbe-microbe and plant-microbe interactions to ensure an optimal cell function. Bacteria have evolved intricate regulatory networks that coordinate their physiology based on a plethora of signals. Traditionally characterised independently, recent studies show that these signalling cascades do not function in isolation. How they differ or overlap to allow bacteria to time their responses remains elusive.

Working with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, well-known in agriculture for establishing a beneficial interaction with legumes, the group is interested in understanding how bacterial regulatory networks control different aspects of the cell physiology through a signalling cross-talk, allowing the cell to act at different times relative to their metabolic requirements, environmental signals and stress conditions. Combining molecular microbiology, with physiology, genetics and biochemistry, the group studies how these regulatory networks control cellular processes such as metabolism and nutrient uptake, motility and chemotaxis or biofilm formation and attachment. We are also interested in the dynamics of collective bacterial behaviours and the interplay between high bacterial cell density and global metabolic and stress-sensing pathways. Identification of key regulatory elements and cross-talk mechanisms will facilitate the practical application of microbial consortia for sustainable agriculture, soil health and food production.

Our research is also focused on the complex interactions among bacterial communities, involving both cooperation and competition. Competition for nodulation is a key adaptive feature of rhizobia that is of great importance in the practical application of inoculants. However, the genetic basis of competitiveness for nodule formation is not fully understood yet. Uncovering the genetic features behind competition would allow us to manipulate the expression of these traits, either genetically or through culture conditions, leading to improvements in the ability of rhizobial strains to compete against endogenous soil populations.

If you are interested in joining our group, please get in touch by email outlining your main interests and including your CV.

Contact Details
E: carmen.sanchez-canizares@biology.ox.ac.uk
T: +44 (0)1865 75033
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