Table of Contents
Conservation of Salmonella Infection Mechanisms in Plants and Animals
Laboratory of excellence "Saclay Plant Sciences"
Talents to be recruited
Proteomics 2011
Podcast Dec, 2010
new EPSO president
1000 researchers talk about science
Gene for Sexual Switching discovered
INRA scientist commended for his work on crops by premier Indian agriculture research institute
Master 2 in Systems and Synthetic Biology mSSB
Plant Stress Biology: From Genomics to Systems Biology
Heribert Hirt distinguished EMBO Member 2008
Salad & Salmonella - Food Poisoning as a Side Dish
Genome Biology publishes a key resource for pea genetics
Lab Times 1 - 2008: Intruder Alert
Bacteria Use Plant Defence for Genetic Modification
A major advance in plant biology : the grapevine genome is completely sequenced


Conservation of Salmonella Infection Mechanisms in Plants and Animals

Press Release Sept 09, 2011 INRA

Salmonella uses similar mechanism to infect plants and humans
INRA - CNRS - Université d'Evry


In recent years, it has become clear that food poisoning due to Salmonella typhimurium can be contracted not only by uncooked eggs and meat but also through eating contaminated raw vegetables and fruit(1). So far, it was unclear how these bacteria can infect humans and plants alike. A team associating researchers from INRA, CNRS and the Universities of Evry (France), Giessen (Germany) and Vienna (Austria), has shown that Salmonella suppress the defense systems of plants and humans by a similar mechanism. Moreover, the teams showed that plants contaminated with Salmonella are highly infectious to human cells and mice. The results were published in PLoS ONE on September 6, 2011.

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Publication: Conservation of Salmonella Infection Mechanisms in Plants and Animals


Laboratory of excellence "Saclay Plant Sciences"

The SPS was selected by an international jury as part of French "investments for the future" excellence initiative. SPS gathers four laboratories: the Institute of Plant Biology (IBP), the Institute Jean-Pierre Bourgin (IJPB), the Institute of Plant Sciences (ISV) and the URGV - Plant Genomics Research (URGV).
In the current context of population growth, limited natural resources, climate change and facing the need to better protect the environment and biodiversity, three strategic, complementary, interconnected scientific challenges:
1) moving from a descriptive towards a more predictive biology,
2) understanding basic mechanisms that control plant development and physiology, and
3) developing tools and biotechnology for research, innovation and valorisation. To address these challenges, the strategy of the SPS will be to support the best academic research, teaching and training that will be necessary for innovations over the long term, and to ensure dissemination and valorisation of results. These studies extend from the cell to the entire plant, and use the concepts and tools of biochemistry, biophysics, imaging, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, modelling and bioinformatics. The SPS is supported by five institutions (AgroParisTech, CNRS, INRA, Univ. of Evry, Univ. of Paris 11) as well as the coordinating partner Saclay.

The current research activities of the SPS concern the essential genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that control plant physiology and development, as well as their interactions with fluctuating biotic or abiotic environments. These studies extend from the cell to the entire plant, and use the concepts and tools of biochemistry, biophysics, imaging, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, modelling and bioinformatics. The four laboratories of the SPS (IBP, IJPB, ISV, URGV) include about 400 permanent staff members and 150 PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. Members of the SPS provide 7500 hours of teaching and training per year and host several internationally renowned leaders and talented young investigators.

The SPS strategy will be implemented by different types of initiatives and cross-cutting actions including strategic and integrative flagship projects headed by internationally recognized leaders. A grant program will be launched on a yearly basis in the areas of four relevant thematic priorities, to support the valorisation of results, the emergence of new topics and the starting phase of new researchers. The four thematic priorities will be: 1) the sustainable intensification of plant productivity in a fluctuating environment; 2) plants as factories: improving plant quality for food, feed, health, environment and industry; 3) plants to understand fundamental biological mechanisms; and 4) developing new resources and biotechnologies for research, innovation, and technology transfer.

In addition, the Labex will implement an international Masters program dedicated to plant biology, which will be coordinated with key European universities involved in plant sciences. Fellowships for post-doctoral trainees or PhD students will be associated with flagship projects and grant programs




26 junior and senior research positions for foreigners and French citizens currently living outside of France are available in various prestigious research institutes in Paris, including the URGV. If you are interested to join us, please visit:




proteomics 2011




December 2010

Heribert Hirt on Reactive Oxygen Species

Current Classics were drawn from Essential Science IndicatorsSM from Thomson Reuters, and have the greatest absolute increase in citations from January 1, 1999 - December 31, 2009, the previous bimonthly period (sixth of 2009) to January 1, 2000 - February 28, 2010, the first bimonthly period of 2010. from Thomson Reuters, Podcasts for 2010
listen the podcast (mp3)


EPSO, European Plant Science Organisation

The EPSO Board unanimously elected Heribert Hirt as the new EPSO president

EPSO, the European Plant Science Organisation, is an independent academic organisation that represents more than 223 leading academic research institutes, universities and departments from 30 countries. Together they represent over 28000 plant researchers and staff. In addition, EPSO has over 2850 personal members.
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Heribert Hirt

“1000 RESEARCHERS SPEAK OF THE FUTURE" brings together the 1000 most recognized researchers from all scientific disciplines in France. This group of researchers represents the scientific community who works for the future and tomorrow’s society. Every researcher expresses his vision of the future with a short phrase. This mosaic of faces and words is exhibited in a monumental video projection on the walls of the Pantheon in Paris, from 18 to 24 October 2010.






Gene for Sexual Switching discovered:
A transposon-induced epigenetic change leads to sex determination in melon

Gene for Sexual Switching discovered

Sex determination in plants leads to the development of unisexual flowers from an originally bisexual floral meristem. This mechanism results in the enhancement of outcrossing and promotes genetic variability, the consequences of which are advantageous to the evolution of a species. In melon, sexual forms are controlled by identity of the alleles at the andromonoecious (a) and gynoecious (g) loci. We previously showed that the a gene encodes an ethylene biosynthesis enzyme, CmACS-7, that represses stamen development in female flowers. Here we show that the transition from male to female flowers in gynoecious lines results from epigenetic changes in the promoter of a transcription factor, CmWIP1. This natural and heritable epigenetic change resulted from the insertion of a transposon, which is required for initiation and maintenance of the spreading of DNA methylation to the CmWIP1 promoter. Expression of CmWIP1 leads to carpel abortion, resulting in the development of unisexual male flowers. Moreover, we show that CmWIP1 indirectly represses the expression of the andromonoecious gene, CmACS-7, to allow stamen development. Together our data indicate a model in which CmACS-7 and CmWIP1 interact to control the development of male, female and hermaphrodite flowers in melon.
Nature. 2009 Oct 22;461(7267):1135-8. PMID: 19847267


INRA scientist commended for his work on crops by premier Indian agriculture research institute


The event was organised at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, which is a premier institute in the area of agriculture in Asia. The institute invited Dr. Abdel Bendahmane to talk to the faculty and students. The lecture was attended by a large audience, reflecting the popularity of Dr. Bendahmane among the researchers, young or old, in India. The lecture was followed by a great deal of discussion. The talk was appreciated by one and all, and the students and faculty benefited a lot. Also, some research leads emerged during the discussion for possible collaborative projects between ICAR and INRA.




The talk by Dr. Abdel was chaired by the Director of the Institute Dr. HS Gupta, and co-chaired by the Dean Joint-Director, Education Dr. HS Gaur and Dr. K.C. Bansal Professor & Principal Scientist National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology.







Master 2 in Systems and Synthetic Biology mSSB


The vigorous development of Systems and Synthetic Biology constitutes a huge challenge that must be met both from the research and education perspectives. mSSB represents the first step towards nurturing a new brand of researchers and engineers to face up to the challenge.
The aim of mSSB is to provide students from the Life Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, Chemistry, Physical and Computer Sciences a mean to fruitfully engage in collaborative work across disciplinary boundaries, with applications in Systems and Synthetic Biology. Students undertaking the course will gain hands-on experience in experimental Biology, modelling and designing. They will also enhance transversal capacities including planning a project, giving a seminar, writing and defending a scientific report, interacting with a community, perceiving the industrial, economical and ethical issues associated with these developing fields.
m o r e: Master 2 in Systems and Synthetic Biology mSSB









Plant Stress Biology: From Genomics to Systems Biology

Plant Stress Biology: From Genomics to Systems Biology - Heribert Hirt

This is the first book to present a comprehensive and advanced discussion on the latest insights into plant stress biology. Starting with general aspects of biotic as well as abiotic stresses, this handbook and ready reference moves on to focus on topics of stress hormones, technical approaches such as proteomics, transcriptomics and genomics, and their integration into systemic modeling. This book is a valuable resource for researchers as well as professionals not just in plant sciences but also in cell and molecular biology as well as biotechnology.

More details

To aquire the book:
Wiley - VCH or Wiley International












Heribert Hirt distinguished EMBO Member 2008

EMBO Press Release EMBO Members 2008

EMBO honours 59 leading life scientists
Heidelberg, 15 October 2008
Fifty-nine leading life scientists from Europe and around the world were today recognised by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) for their proven excellence in research. Fifty-one of the researchers, distinguished as EMBO Members, are from Europe and neighbouring countries while eight equally respected scientists come from other parts of the world and join as Associate Members, bringing the current membership total to 1360.

Salad & Salmonella - Food Poisoning as a Side Dish


Salmonella can also infect plant cells and successfully evade all the defence mechanisms of plants. As a result, cleaning the surfaces of raw fruits and vegetables, e.g. by washing, is not sufficient to protect against food poisoning. This surprising discovery, made during a project supported by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, has been published today (25 May, 2008). The results of the project are based on a model plant, which also represents the ideal basis for future development work on treatment and testing systems in the area of food safety.
1.5 billion (!) cases of food poisoning are caused by Salmonella bacteria each year (World Health Organisation). If the bacteria survive particularly well in a person, they can even infect intestinal cells and persist for longer. Previously, the only known sources of infection were infected meat products and plants that had come into contact with contaminated water. However, work by the Unité de Recherche en Génomique Végétale (URGV) in Evry, France, and the Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL) in Vienna, Austria, has now shown that this is not entirely true.
Fruit & Veggies & Bacteria
Work carried out by a team led by geneticist Prof. Heribert Hirt, and published today (25 May, 2008) in PloS ONE, shows that the strain of bacteria known as Salmonella typhimurium can also invade, and multiply inside, plant cells. It is already known that Salmonella can survive for up to 900 days in contaminated soils, which creates a rich source of infection for plant material. However, Prof. Hirt's team can now show that bacteria from such a source can actively achieve the infection of plant cells, thereby disproving the previous assumption that infection was coincidental and - as regards the bacteria - passive.
FWF Press Release english
INRA La bactérie Salmonella typhimurium peut infecter les plantes francais
La bactérie Agrobacterium tumefaciens utilise le système de défense des plantes pour les transformer
INRA 2007 Oct 19 francais
CNRS 2007 Oct 19 francais
Objectif Sciences Comprendre le stress des plantes pour attenuer les effets du rechauffement terrestre francais
Original publication: The dark side of salad: Salmonella typhimurium overcomes the innate immune response of Arabidospis thaliana and shows an endopathogenic lifestyle. A. Schikora, A. Carreri, E. Charpentier, Heribert Hirt, Plos ONE.

Genome Biology publishes a key resource for pea genetics

pea plant

2008-Feb-26 The field of pea genetics received a boost today with the publication of a resource of pea mutants in Genome Biology.
The pea, Pisum sativum, is one of the most famous tools used in genetics: school children today learn that the 19th century monk Gregor Mendel studied the pea - for example, whether the seeds are wrinkled or not - and showed that this and other traits are inherited in a predictable way.
Peas have kept many of their other genetic clues secret, however, as they are unsuited to the genetic modification techniques that are commonly used to work with plants. Scientists, led by Abdelhafid Bendahmane, at the French National Agricultural research Institute (INRA) used an early flowering pea cultivar, called Caméor, to study mutant plants at different developmental stages (from seedling through to fruit maturation). The team studied DNA samples from 4,704 plants and identified many essential genes. From this they created a database called UTILLdb, which describes each mutant plant at each developmental stage studied, and incorporates digital images of the plants. UTILLdb contains phenotypic as well as sequence information on mutant genes, and can be searched plant traits of interest.
This new tool has implications for both basic science and for crop improvement, and the authors hope that it will fulfill the expectation of crop breeders and scientists who use the pea.
The full article was published 26 February in Genome Biology and has received considerable attention in the media. The London Times features both a news item on the science, and a lead editorial celebrating the preeminent role of the humble pea in the progress of scientific understanding.

UTILLdb, a Pisum sativum in silico forward and reverse genetics tool

Press Releases

PHYSORG.COM: Scientists unravel the genetic coding of the pea Researchers Build Field Pea DNA Tool
BIOLOGYNEWS.NET: Scientists unravel the genetic coding of the pea
GenomeWeb News: French Researchers Create Genetic Reference Collection of Pea Mutants (discontinued)
TheOpenHelixBlog: World Peas
AlphaGalileo: Scientists unravel the genetic coding of the pea (discontinued)
GENETICS TIMES: Genetic Coding Of The Pea Unraveled

Lab Times 1 - 2008: Intruder Alert

Agrobacterium transforms plants, that’s a well-known fact. But how exactly does the transforming T-DNA get into the plant’s nucleus? Heribert Hirt and his team now know: Agrobacterium abuses the host’s own defence response.

Bacteria Use Plant Defence for Genetic Modification

Oct 19, 2007. Bacteria that cause tumours in plants modify plant genomes by skilfully exploiting the plants' first line of defence. Utilising the plant's own proteins, bacterial genes infiltrate first the nucleus then the plant genome, where they reprogramme the plant's metabolism to suit their own needs. This process was recently discovered as part of an Austrian Science Fund FWF project and was published in SCIENCE.

The genetic manipulation of plants is both, a subject of great controversy in Europe and a tactic already practiced by certain bacteria. The soil bacterium known as crown-gall bacterium (Agrobacterium) manipulates the genetic make-up of plants by inserting its own DNA into the nuclei and, consequently, into the genetic material of the plant cells. The genetically modified plants are then reprogrammed to ensure uninhibited cell division and produce nutrients to feed the bacteria. What was not previously understood is exactly how bacteria genes infiltrate the cell's nucleus - particularly as the defence mechanisms of plant cells react so rapidly to bacterial invasion.

Weak Defences

Heribert Hirt recent publication

A surprising detail of this process has now been uncovered by the team of Prof. Heribert Hirt working at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories at the University of Vienna and the URGV Plant Genomics Institute near Paris which Hirt joined as future director earlier this year. VIP1, a plant cell protein, is at the heart of their research. It was already known that this protein supports the transport of bacterial DNA known as T-DNA into the nucleus, and yet the exact role of VIP1 was unclear. Prof. Hirt explains: "We were able to show that VIP1 is a protein that regulates various genes designed to defend against bacterial invasion. However, VIP1 only occurs initially in the cytoplasm of cells and - in order to fulfil its role as a regulator - it then needs to migrate into the nucleus. It is precisely this movement that the bacterium exploits in order to inject its T-DNA into the nucleus." Prof. Hirt compares this strategy, which inevitably means that the plants own defences cause its downfall, to the famous Trojan Horse.

Friend & Foe

Prof. Hirt explains further - "Plants have an immune defence mechanism that is triggered when the plant detects certain molecules of the invader and works by activating genes in the nucleus." Once the invader has been detected, specific protein kinases in the cytoplasm are activated. These are enzymes that regulate the activity of other proteins by adding phosphate groups to them. One of the proteins phosphorylated by these protein kinases is VIP1, which is only granted access to the nucleus after this phosphorylation, so that it can activate the relevant defence genes there.

The following model illustrates the early processes in an infected plant cell. The invasion of T-DNA and the identification of the bacterium as an invader occur simultaneously. While protein kinases phosphorylate VIP1 in the cytoplasm, the bacterial T-DNA adheres to VIP1, thereby enabling it to infiltrate the nucleus unnoticed. The result is the joint infiltration of both friend and foe. Once inside the nucleus, the T-DNA is inserted into the plant genome and the process of tumour formation begins while the activated defence genes simultaneously organise the plant cell's defence mechanisms. It is too late though - the cell has already been transformed.

Original publication: Trojan horse strategy in Agrobacterium transformation - Abusing MAPK-targeted VIP1 defence signalling Armin Djamei, Andrea Pitzschke, Hirofumi Nakagami, Iva Rajh, Heribert Hirt, Science 318, 453 (2007).

A major advance in plant biology : the grapevine genome is completely sequenced

A major achievement has been reached in plant biology: the first detailed analysis of the grapevine genome has just been published. The joint effort carried out by scientists from Genoscope and INRA in France and from several Universities and the Istituto di Genomica Applicata (IGA) in Italy has produced a high-quality draft of the genome sequence of Vitis vinifera, the first for a fruit crop, cultivated for both fruit and beverage. The results of this analysis allow a better understanding of plant evolution and genes involved in wine aromas. The details are published in the online Nature paper of August 26th 2007.

The grapevine joins the other three plant species sequenced so far: thale cress (Arabidospis thaliana), rice and poplar. The project aiming at the characterization of the grapevine genome was launched in 2005 within a scientific cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture in France and the Ministry of Agriculture in Italy. It is coordinated by INRA and Genoscope in France and by CRA in Italy.

Figure 2 Schematic representation of paralogous regions derived from the three ancestral genomes in the karyotypes of V. vinifera, P. trichocarpa and A. thaliana.

The public release of the grapevine sequence is both a fundamental accomplishment and a starting point for a deeper characterization of gene function. This is crucial for a better assessment of natural variation and its relevance to phenotypic variability, and the realization of applicative projects, aimed for instance at the development of grapevine resistant to diseases. This in turn will contribute to the much-needed reduction of fungicide and pesticide treatments and the development of a more sustainable agriculture.

The inbred line selected for the project, derived from Pinot Noir, was obtained at the INRA Research Centre of Colmar. The choice of this line allowed the French-Italian public consortium to obtain a very high quality sequence of approximately 480 million base-pairs, which unveiled some of the secrets of the constitution of the grapevine genome. The sequencing operation began in December 2005. Genoscope (Paris, France), IGA (Udine, Italy) and CRIBI (Padova, Italy) produced more than 6 million short genome fragments and the resources and expertise of all the partners (including Genoscope and INRA for France) were mobilized to analyse the sequence obtained.

Major results to understand the evolution of flowering plants

The comparative analysis of the grapevine genome and those of rice, poplar and Arabidopsis, has revealed the ancestral nature of the grapevine genome in comparison to the other plant species and has allowed researchers to get a glimpse of how a plant genome looked like in the progenitor of flowering plants.

Towards a better understanding of aromas in wines

A striking feature of the grapevine gene content is the existence of large families of genes related to wine flavour, which have a very high gene copy number. This is the case, for instance, for the genes coding for stilbene synthase, an enzyme which drives the synthesis of resveratrol, the compound responsible for the health benefits associated to a moderate consumption of wine. A similar situation is found for genes coding for enzymes involved in the synthesis of terpens and tannins, the major components of aromas, resins and essential oils.

The grapevine sequence is fully accessible to the world scientific community through public databases. The French-Italian public consortium has been offering complete access to its sequencing results since October 2006 through three public websites* whose browsers are intensively accessed by scientists worldwide.

This project was financed by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the Consortium National de Recherche en Génomique, the Agence Nationale de la Recherche, INRA, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture (VIGNA-CRA), and Regione Autonoma Friuli Venezia Giulia together with a consortium of private companies and banks (IGA).

*The French-Italian public consortium has been offering complete access to its sequencing results since October 2006 through three public websites:

Vitis genome
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