Éva Kondorosi#

Laudatio by Pál Venetianer#


She has made outstanding discoveries in the field of Rhizobium-legume symbiosis. The first Rhizobium nodulation genes that induce in the host legume plant the formation of nitrogen fixing root nodules have been published with her first authorship. She has made a major contribution to the identification of 23 nodulation genes of Sinorhizobium meliloti, unraveling the complex and coordinated regulation of nodulation operons via a common cis element, the nod box and different positive and negative transcription factors. Her role was also decisive in defining the function of the S. meliloti nodulation genes in the biosynthesis of Nod factors and in the discovery of the Nod factor family.

Then her work was oriented towards the Nod factor evoked plant responses in Medicago sativa and later in M truncatula. Almost uniquely in the field she studied how the plant cell cycle is activated and regulated at different stages of nodule development. She demonstrated the importance of the endoreduplication cycles in the differentiation of Rhizobium infected symbiotic plant cells and showed that endopolyloidy is a general feature of symbiotic cells in all nodule types. She discovered and characterized the cell cycle switch CCS52 proteins that regulate the switch between the mitotic and endoreduplication cycles and control the ploidy levels and cell size. The CCS52 proteins were shown to be the substrate-specific activators of the anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) E3 ubiquitin ligase and the first characterized APC/C activators in plants. As the APC/C is a crucial regulator of the eukaryotic cell cycle and thus essential for plant development, her research on the role of APC/C-activator complexes has also been extended to Arabidopsis thaliana. Recent data from her laboratory demonstrated the role of different APC/C activators in meristem maintenance and stem cell identity. Polyploidy mediated cell and organ growth via CCS52A resulted in two international patents. Revealing the regulatory functions of the APC/C activators provides one of the most profound recent contributions in the field of plant developmental biology and cell cycle research.

During the last years she demonstrated that the Rhizobium bacteria inside the plant cells also undergo a remarkable and irreversible differentiation process manifested by elongation and branching of bacteria in association with the amplification of their genome, loss of their cell division ability and alteration of their membrane structure. lt was shown that the host plant controls the differentiation of bacteria. Her laboratory discovered two large nodule specific peptide families (~400 peptides) that were exclusively expressed in the Rhizobium infected plant cells. The latest breakthrough is the demonstration that nodule specific peptides govern terminal differentiation of the endosymbiotic bacteria. This represents a major contribution to the Rhizobium-legume research. Moreover, the identification of the antimicrobial activity of these nodule specific peptides opened innovative research lines in the newly created BAYGEN institute, which resulted in a European patent filing on the potential applications of these plant peptides as antibacterials in human and veterinary medicine and in agriculture for plant protection.

Her original and remarkable findings in the field of Rhizobium-legume symbiosis and beyond are highly acknowledged. She is a regular invited speaker of international conferences and member of organizing committees of scientific meetings on Rhizobium-legume symbiosis, plant molecular biology, cell cycle, plant-microbe interactions (from 1997 she was invited plenary/key note speaker or chairperson/session coordinator at 44 international conferences). She is a reviewer of top scientific journals, national and international granting agencies and scientific advisor in several institutes in Europe and Australia, and member of department evaluation boards. She was involved in the initiation of the UNESCO << Women in Science >> program and was member of the international jury for the OREAL-UNESCO << Women in Science » Awards. She has supervised 22 master and 24 PhD students. Several of her students became university professors, heads of departments or biotech companies. She was tutor at EMBO and NATO courses and a board member ofthe International Max Planck Research School, She took part in the creation of the CNRS Institut des Sciences Végétales, including planning and installation ofthe institute, selecting scientific projects and directing and initiating novel research lines in the field of Rhizobium-legume symbiosis. In 2007 she won a 4 year grant from the Hungarian Office for Research and Technology to create a new institute based on French-Hungarian collaborations (BAYGEN: Institute for Plant Genomics, Human Biotechnology and Bioenergy, Bay Zoltan Foundation for Applied Research). Under her directorship, innovative research lines bridging plant and human/animal systems have been developed and received already international recognition.

She is a Member of the Board of Directors at the International Society of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions.

She is an EMBO member and a Corresponding Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

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