Friday Seminar – “Pervasive impacts of domestication on microbial symbioses in chickpea”

Our next Friday Seminar speaker is Professor Douglas Cook from the University of California, Davis

Email to request access to the recording.


Legume species are key components of both natural and agricultural ecosystems. Their relationship with microbes defines opportunities for basic research as well priorities for translational outcomes.

The most conspicuous of these relationships is symbiotic nitrogen fixation, though interactions with commensal microbes in the microbiome and with pathogens in agricultural systems have equally compelling features and urgent needs. Here we study cultivated chickpea, its immediate wild progenitor species and their microbes.

We apply genomic, computational and phenotyping approaches to address questions about the nature, origins and functional relevance of variation in wild systems and to understand how the processes of domestication have re-shaped both plant and microbial diversity.

We document impacts of domestication on nitrogen fixation, both in the plant host and the microbial symbiont. We demonstrate local adaptation for symbiosis in natural systems and a relaxation of specificity and decreased efficiency in cultivated species.

Related studies of wild microbiomes identify factors driving microbial community composition, while global surveys of agricultural microbiomes demonstrate strong geographic bias in community composition and divergence between wild and cultivated systems. This seminar will present strategies to gain insights of interest to fundamental science while also aiming to improve chickpea’s agricultural systems.

Professor Douglas Cook biography

Douglas R. Cook is a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California-Davis.

He received his doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a bacterial geneticist in the Department of Plant Pathology, and conducted postdoctoral research at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department of Embryology at The Johns Hopkins University.

He served on the faculty of Texas A&M University from 1992-2000, prior to joining UC Davis, and as an adjunct Professor of International Graduate School in Bioinformatics and Genome Research at the Universitat Bielefeld in Germany from 2002-2008. He was among a small group of colleagues who together pioneered the use of Medicago truncatula as a model genetic and genomic system for investigation of legume biology.

For the past two decades has been a leading advocate for the application of basic legume science towards pressing agricultural needs in the developing world, during which time his program was recognized as one of the most highly cited researchers 2008-2018. He recently led an international consortium focused on the of crop wild relatives of cultivated chickpea. His current research spans model and crop legume systems, with a dual focus on (1) ecological genomics to understand gene function in complex natural and agricultural legume systems, and (2) mining agricultural traits from microbes and plants.

Recently, Doug cofounded NuCicer, which is a biotechnology company focused on developing super-high protein content lines of chickpea, with enhanced functional and nutritional properties.

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