Traits in Emerging Endosymbiosis for Manipulating Host Cell (INCELL)

Funded by Academy of Finland



We have identified a new type of endosymbiotic interaction between Methylobacterium extorquens DSM13060 and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.). Methylobacterium spp. are the most dominant endosymbiotic species in the cells of meristematic bud tissues of Scots pine.

These bacteria colonize pine seedlings through rhizobia-like mechanisms and increase host growth to the same extent as mycorrhizal fungi. Once inside pine cells, they aggregate around the nucleus and can directly interfere with pine metabolism. We will elucidate these mechanisms by identifying genes activated, and by tracing compound transfer between the organisms. The research will produce essential information on a novel symbiosis by elucidating mechanisms of manipulating host cells by intracellular bacteria. The study has potential to identify new targets for intracellular pathogens.


Microarray and Transcriptome studies


RNA analysis with bioanalyzer




Endophytes in Bilberry Fruits and their Influence on Berry Secondary Metabolism


Wild berries, a well-known natural resource in Finland and Northern Europe, contain various benefits for human health. The health advantages are due to richness of secondary metabolites, so-called phenolic compounds. Nevertheless, up to now, secondary metabolism of wild berries induced by microbial associates (endophytes) has not been studied.

We are studying one of the most important wild berries in Northern Europe, bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.), which is easily found in forests in Finland, to address a key question of research on medicinal plants: How much do endophytes participate or interfere with the host secondary metabolism?

The project is specified into three objectives. Particularly, the first objective aims to describe the endophytic community composition and analyze the corresponding berry secondary metabolite profiles of the most important wild berry fruits in the north (i.e. lingonberry, crowberry, and bilberry). The second objective aims to know the impacts of environmental conditions and origin of bilberry fruits on the endophytic community composition and secondary metabolite profiles. The third objective examines the location of selected endophytes in bilberry fruit during berry development.

The results of the project are expected to make a valuable contribution towards enhancing the quality and quantity of wild berries as well as reserving and fully exploiting their health advantages.


Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.)


An endophytic fungus




The moss Warnstorfia fluitans and common reed Phragmites australis and their microbial symbionts for phytoremediation of mining and municipal wastewaters

Funded by Kone Foundation


Human-induced processes have led to nitrogen and/or heavy metal loads to recipient water bodies and soils, creating an urgent need for sustainable and cost-effective treatment solutions. A number of plants can uptake, store or even volatilize metals and metalloids and nutrients to the atmosphere. Plant-associated microbes play a major role in metal and nutrient uptake, modification, and storage. Microbial symbionts help plants to survive in various and, at times, challenging biological conditions, but their application in bioremediation is a relatively unexplored field of research.

The project aims to study bioremediation potential of floating hook-moss (Warnstorfia fluitans ) and common reed (Phragmites australis ) by identifying mechanisms and roles of symbiotic microbes in metal accumulation and nitrogen uptake processes. The moss is adapted to low pH and temperature conditions, and based on previous studies, accumulates effectively metals and metalloids. Common reed is famous for use in phytoremediation of various wastewaters and soils around the globe for the past fifty years. However, participation of microbes in the phytoremediation process, and capacity of reed to remove contaminants from the soil in cold growth conditions are not known. At first, we will identify indicator microbes participating in the uptake and accumulation processes. Secondly, we will specify where plant stores the contaminants and thirdly, we will consider the potential of microbial symbionts in development of innovate biotechnological solutions for metal- and nitrogen-rich wastewaters.


Floating hook-moss (Warnstorfia fluitans)