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2014_06_09 Paola Bonfante Curriculum 2014

Paola Bonfante
Department of Life Science and Systems Biology, Università di Torino
Viale Mattioli 25, I- 10125 Torino, Italy
Tel.+39 11 6502927, 6705965
FAX +39 116705962
E [email protected], : [email protected],
Nationality: Italian
Laurea in Scienze Biologiche cum laude University of Torino, July 8, 1970
Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Torino
Past-Head of the Department of Plant Biology (October 2006-December 2011)
Past Responsible of the Centro di Studio sulla Micologia del Terreno del CNR- Torino, currently named
Sezione di Torino dell'Istituto di Protezione per le Piante (1995-2009)
Past Coordinator of the PhD school in Biological and Biotechnological Sciences (till December 31, 2014);
Past responsible of the PhD Course in Biology and Biotechnology of Fungi belonging to the School of
Science and Technology:
Member of the Scientific Committee of CNR (2012-);
Teaching position
Natural Sciences (Botany, Environmental Biotechnology), Biology (Plant Biology), Plant Biotechnology.
Research field
Biology of Plant-Microorganism Interactions
Her primary research interest is the biology of mycorrhizas, symbioses which are central in the balance of
natural and agronomical ecosystems. Mycorrhizal fungi are in fact considered of primary importance for
the environmental balance and for a more sustainable agriculture, since they act as biofertiliser for their host
plants, and are often defined as the ultimate biological tool which can help to feed the world.
Starting from the seventies and after a seminal training period in Paris at the Ecole Normale Superieure
(1980), Paola Bonfante spent a long part of her scientific activity studying the intimate interactions that
occur between fungi and plants as well as between bacteria and fungi, using cellular and molecular
approaches. Applying DNA technologies, early in the nineties, she provided contribution to the knowledge
of mycorrhizal diversity in natural as well as in cultivated fields. She has discovered a group of endobacteria
which live inside mycorrhizal fungi and may modulate some of the functional traits of their fungal hosts.
When genomics approach became available, enabling researchers to reveal how fungal metabolisms
contribute to the physiology of their hosts and to plant communities, she applied these new technological
platforms to both ecto and endomycorrhizal fungi developing different projects, some of which in
collaboration with Francis Martin from INRA, or with other international teams.
The current main scientific missions of the group she coordinates are: to understand the impact of plant
microbiota, and of mycorrhizal fungi in particular, on plant health in natural and agricultural ecosystems; to
decipher the cellular and molecular basis of plant-fungal interactions in mycorrhizas; to investigate the
genetic determinants which characterize some mycorrhizal fungi; to define the fungal biodiversity in soil; to
investigate the fungal interactions with other microorganisms. The expertise on cellular and molecular
biology of plant/fungal interactions as well as on dynamics of fungal populations is witnessed by a large
number of original, review and technical papers and multiple international collaborations.
Major current scientific projects
Cellular and molecular interactions between plants and mycorrhizal fungi, with particular attention to
signalling and colonization processes (PRO-ROOT);
Systemic effects of mycorrhizal fungi on plant traits (ARAs)
Biology of endobacteria living in AM fungi, with particular attention to Candidatus Glomeribacter
gigasporarum (sequencing project) and Mollicutes-related BLOs, also in the frame of the project
Comparative genomics of early diverging terrestrial fungi and their bacterial endosymbionts,
headed by Dr Gregory Bonito, Duke University.
Genomics and Functional genomics in mycorrhizal fungi (among which Tuber melanosporum, T. magnatum,
Rhizophagus irregularis, Gigaspora margarita);
Bacterial and fungal microbiota in rice (RISINNOVA project);
Biology of the rhizosphere in tomato (MYCOPLANT project) and in wheat (MYC-CERES)
Local coordinator of European projects devoted to the effects of GMOs on mycorrhizal and saprotrofic
fungi: IMPACT I and IMPACT II (1993-1999), to the identification of useful genetic traits in AM fungi,
Genomyca (2001-2004), to the use of AM fungi in Lotus (INTEGRAL, 2004-2007), to the identification of
AM fungi and their endobacteria (TRACEAM); Local coordinator of national projects: Programs of national
relevance (2006; 08; 2012); Ministry of Agriculture (SOILSINK, 2006-09); RAISA, MIPA, Truffle Project,
Environmental Biotechnology; Functional genomics in Plant-Microbes; Microbes in rice rhizosphere (20112013); National coordinator of a CNR project on Soil Microbe biodiversity; Responsible of local projects
funded by the University or by CNR , and for the Excellence Center CEBIOVEM, by Regione Piemonte
(Poli di Innovazione, Assessorato Montagna), by CRA (Risinnova Project);
Coodinator of a Regional project on Converging Biotechnoloogies (BIOBIT-CIPE);
Coordinator of a project on Root microbiomes for Plant health (January 2013-2015)
Local coordinator for many national Prin, among which PRIN 2011, PRO-ROOT (20013-2015).
Scientific activities
Organizer of many symposia, workshops and meetings on mycorrhizas and symbiotic fungi; Visiting
scientist in Japan (1989) and Brasil (2012). Invited speakers in many international congresses of Mycology,
Microbiology, Botany, Biotechnology, Plant Pathology, Cell Biology, Fungal genetics, Genetics, Memorial
Symposium for Biology of Symbiosis (Tokyo, 2010)
Invited to be External examiner (Opponent) for more than 12 PhD Dissertations in Lyon, Dijon, Toulouse,
Nancy, Paris, Montpellier, Basel and Fribourg
Member of the Scientific Committee of the Dijon Campus (France)
Member of the Scientific Committee of Plant for Future (Italy)
Organizing committee of the MPMI meeting in Sorrento (2007), 8th International Congress of Plant
Pathology (Torino, 2008), Indian-Italian Workshop (November, 2010)
Supervisor of more than 20 Ph.D students
Editorial activities
Editor of Environmental Microbiology (2013-); Associated Editor of Fungal Biology; Board member in
international journals (The ISME Journal, New Phytologist, FEMS, European Journal of Histochemistry,
Microbial Research) and referee for papers concerning mycorrhizas for different journals (ie. Plant Cell,
Plant Journal, Plant Physiology, Planta, Fungal Biology & Genetics, PNAS ) and for scientific European
and American (NSF) Agencies. Referee for ERC (Senior grants, 2011)
Scientific production
Papers in refereed journals: more than 290 (listed in
bioveg/ (Persone- Bonfante) and in ISI WEB of Knowledge
In the list of the Top Italian Scientists
Rank 63 Paola Bonfante H- index 65 Italy plant biology (Google scholar: H index 65)
Fellow of Academy of Sciences of Torino (2000),
Fellow of Academy of Agriculture of Torino (2000),
Fellow of Academia dei Lincei (November 2011)
Award for Giovani ricercatori-Le Scienze; Rome, September 1977
Award for Plant Biology 2010, Accademia dei Lincei, Roma, June 2010
Award for the French Food Spirit- Science – Paris, December 16, 2010
Contacts with Industries
During the management of a CIPE Project (BIOBIT “Converging platforms on soil metagenomics
for developing white/ green biotechnologies”2009-2012, she
coordinated the activities of 10 groups, 4 of them belonging to private companies. GEOL and ETICA are
bioinformatics companies, while ISAGRO Research is one of the largest Companies of the AgroChemical sectors, and the small company CCS Val D’Aosta, produces microbial inocula.
She also had a long collaboration with Bayer. She has been involved in the development of two patents.
Main discoveries
The main results obtained in the last ten years involve three fields and in detail:
1. The host plants control the fungal colonization process forming an apparatus (the prepenetration apparatus) prior to the fungal colonization (Genre et al, 2005). This findings has been
defined has a turning point in our knowledge (Parniske, 2008, Nature reviews) and has opened a
new research direction, which has already led to many new original findings (Siciliano et al 2007,
Genre et al, 2008, 2009) and to fruitful collaborations ( with the group of David Barker, Toulouse
and Ton Bisseling, Wageningen). In the mean time, her group has been the first to set up a
complex methodology based on the laser dissection which allows them to investigate the
expression profile of specific cell populations. The first results published in 2007 (Balestrini et al)
and demonstrating that Pi transporters are over expressed in mycorrhizal cells have received very
positive comments by the scientific community. Also in this case they have opened new
collaborations and led to new findings like the presence of a so far never described plant
ammonium transporter (Guether et al, 2009, a and b) and the specific location of a Pi transporter
(Fiorilli et al 2013).
2. Her research group was one of the first to apply PCR in the early nineties to detect and
distinguish mycorrhizal fungi. They have created a large data set with diagnostic goals: applying
such molecular tools they can detect economically important fungi like truffles (see the review
Mello et al, 2005), investigate population dynamics (Murat et al., 2004) as well as apply this
knowledge to investigate the expression pattern of truffles, also leading to the discovery of a new
protein class (Abbà et al., 2006). Similar significant contributions have been reached for arbuscular
mycorrhizal fungi, where molecular markers have been developed and used to describe their
dynamics directly in the soil and considering diverse habitats, like the polluted or the agricultural
ones (Vallino et al., 2005, Aquacil et al., 2008). All these investigations have also put the basis for
the development of current metagenomics investigations, which have already led to interesting
contributions (Lumini et al., 2010; Orgiazzi et al 2013).
3. The sequence of microbial genomes is a crucial point: Torino group has given contributions to
two international projects (Rhizophagus irregularis and Tuber melanosporum). Comments on
Tuber melanosporum genome have been anticipated in Science, February 20, 2009) and then published
in Nature (Martin et al., 2010), while the first one which represents an arrival point of a long and hard
ay has been published in PNAS (2013) In the mean time PB group has successufully reached the
genome assembly of a bacterium living inside an AM fungus, Candidatus Glomeribacter (Ghignone et
al 2012). This bacterium has been characterized by Torino group (Bianciotto et al, 2003, 2004, Lumini
et al, 2006, Anca 2009) and represents so far the best known AMF-endobacterium system. It represents
the reference point for the project Comparative genomics of early diverging terrestrial fungi and their
bacterial endosymbionts, funded in the USA to dr Gregory Bonito, Duke University.
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