Dr Uta Paszkowski of the Department of Plant Sciences works on the genetic basis of traits that underlie interactions between cereals and fungi. Plants are involved in interactions with a wide variety of microorganisms. The mutually beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis is the most widespread plant-fungal association between roots of terrestrial plants and fungi of the Glomeromycota. Mutualism is manifested in a bi-directional nutrient exchange in which the fungus receives photosynthates from the plant and enhances its mineral, particularly phosphate, nutrition. The research team focuses on the identification and characterization of molecular mechanisms underlying the development and functioning of AM symbioses in the crop plants maize and rice. They have engaged in complementary genetic approaches, namely forward genetic mutant screens in maize and reverse genetics in rice, combining transcriptomics and functional genomics in rice. Mutants arising from either effort are grown in the Botanic Garden glasshouses for genetic characterization and seed amplification.