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Laura Merx

PhD Student

I am a student of the CEPLAS graduate school, coming from Aachen where
I studied Biotechnology. I am interested in
participating in diverse science communication events like Pint of
Science, Science Slams, and Soapbox Science. Furthermore, I was a
co-moderator of the Podcast "Krautnah". Maybe next year, there will be
more episodes, so stay tuned!
In my PhD project I want to identify and characterize proteases
secreted from SynCom members (Niu et al., 2017) and decipher their
role in response to N- depletion. Nitrogen (N) is a vital element of
life. Since plants cannot use or take atmospheric N, they uptake
nitrogen in form of ammonium and nitrate. The conversion of N to
multiple chemical forms
is microbial-dependent. We have identified bacterial members
associated with maize roots that secrete proteases. Genes for
proteolysis are significantly more abundant in root-associated
bacteria than in soil and certain classes of proteases are highly
expressed in endophytic bacterial communities. This body of evidence
indicates that plants might “select” for bacterial strains that
promote an advantage under certain conditions, e.g. availability of
nitrogen. We hypothesize that bacterial proteases can improve nitrogen
acquisition under poor nitrogen conditions and that plants recruit
bacteria-producing proteases to enhance plant nitrogen uptake.


University of Cologne

CEPLAS / Institiute for Plant Sciences
Chair of Terrestrial Microbiology
Zülpicher Straße 47a
D-50674 Cologne
Tel:  +49 221-470-5882
Fax: +49 221-470-7406