The Legume-Rhizobium symbiosis involves a complex series of events requiring close coordination between host and bacterial functions. My research focuses on four aspects of symbiosis: Isolation and characterization of soybean genes that are specifically expressed in N2- fixing root nodule; Understanding the role of plant flavonoids in nodule initiation; Determining the mechanism by which the host differentiates between a symbiont and a pathogen; Manipulating the expression of genes encoding the key ammonia assimilator enzyme, glutamine synthetase, in roots and nodules of alfalfa. Our ultimate goal is to understand the molecular mechanism of nodulation, N2 fixation and ammonia assimilation in legumes and to devise genetic manipulations in the plant to improve the efficiency of these processes. In addition, my lab is also interested in the seed storage protein genes. While my basic research efforts are focused on the regulation of expression of these genes, my efforts in the applied aspect is in the nutritional improvement of seeds and forage crops. In collaboration with the Plant Genetic Engineering Laboratory, I am also working on engineering crop plants with genes encoding for proteins with nematicidal activity.
In the past five years at New Mexico State University I have taught courses in Plant Genetics (with special emphasis on molecular genetics), Plant Biochemistry and Plant Genetic Engineering. In all my teaching efforts, I place a special emphasis on bridging the gap between transmission genetics. I am closely associated with the Plant Genetic Engineering Lab and am a member of both the Agronomy and Horticulture graduate faculty and the Molecular Biology graduate program faculty.