The Brookhaven team has been studying a species of bacteria isolated from the roots of poplar trees. "Poplar is a model species for biofuel production, in part because of its ability to grow on marginal soils unsuitable for food crops," said scientist Daniel (Niels) van der Lelie, who leads the research program. Previous studies by the van der Lelie-Taghavi group have shown that the bacterium Enterobacter (sp. 638) increases poplar growth by as much as 40 percent.
In the current study — through genome sequencing performed at DOE's Joint Genome Institute, manual genome annotation in collaboration with Brookhaven biologist Sebastien Monchy, and metabolic analyses performed at the University of South Carolina in collaboration with Brookhaven plant scientist Lee Newman — the scientists identified an extended set of genes that help Enterobacter (sp. 638) establish itself in this niche. The studies also revealed remarkable interactions between the microbe and its host that help the plant survive and thrive.
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