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Laboratory of Plant-Microbe Interactions - LIPM

Laboratory of Plant-Microbe Interactions

Members - Symbiotic functions, genome and evolution of rhizobia

Dr. Catherine Masson-Boivin, group leader

Catherine Masson

Catherine did her PhD at the LIPM in Jean Dénarié’s lab where she studied the genetic basis of Sinorhizobium meliloti plant compound catabolism. She was recruited as a scientist at IRD (Research Institute for Development) and spent 7 years in Dakar, Western Africa. Her work focussed on rhizobia, nodulation genes and Nod factor diversity (association studies). She then moved back to France, in Montpellier (LSTM) where she discovered β-proteobacteria able to nodulate legumes (now called β-rhizobia). Catherine re-joined the LIPM in 2003 as an INRA member, where she set up her own research group that she now co-directs with Jacques Batut. She selected Cupriavidus taiwanensis as a β-rhizobium model and completely sequenced its genome in collaboration with the Genoscope. More recently she has launched a real-time evolution experiment aiming at evolving a non symbiotic bacterium, the plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum, into a legume symbiont.


Dr. Jacques Batut

Jacques BATUT

Jacques obtained a PhD in Microbiology from the University Paul Sabatier, Toulouse in 1984. He was then recruited at the French Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) to work on the Medicago symbiont Sinorhizobiummeliloti first on the regulation of nitrogen fixation gene expression and, more recently, on the genetic control of plant infection. His main achievements, in collaboration with many colleagues in Toulouse and overseas, include the identification of one of the first two-component regulatory system in bacteria (the FixLJ system of S. meliloti), the sequencing of the S. meliloti genome, one of the first elucidated rhizobium genome at that time, and the development of transcriptomic tools for this bacterium. More recently Jacques’focus has turned to cyclic nucleotide signalling and its contribution to symbiosis and, together with C. Masson-Boivin, the evolution of symbiotic properties in rhizobia. Jacques spent a sabbatical year together with Prof. S. Kustu at UC Berkeley (1989-1990) to work on the in vitro manipulation of two-component regulatory proteins.

Jacques is presently Director of FR3450, a multidisciplinary consortium of laboratories in the field of plant and environmental sciences (


Dr. Delphine Capela, CR1

Delphine CAPELA

During her PhD, Delphine brought a major contribution to the sequencing and expert annotation of the genome of the model rhizobium Sinorhizobium meliloti. When she joined the CNRS in the group of Jacques Batut’s in 2002 she pursued the work on the postgenomics of S. meliloti in deciphering the transcriptome of S. meliloti during the symbiotic process and in free living conditions. Microarray was at that time the most powerful tool to study microbial transcriptomes. More recently, in collaboration with other groups in the lab, Delphine is revisiting the transcriptome of S. meliloti during symbiosis with Medicago truncatula using deep sequencing of RNAs. In 2008 the main research work of Delphine switched to the experimental evolution project which aims at converting a non symbiotic bacterium into a legume symbiont. In this project she is managing the production of evolved populations and clones and is seeking for adaptive mutations responsible for the improvement of the symbiotic properties of experimentally evolved strains.


Dr. Marta Marchetti, CR1


Marta did her PhD thesis at the University of Padue, Italia, on the development of an animal model for the infection of the human pathogen Helicobacter pylori. She then moved to the Pasteur Institute in Paris in the Eric Pringault’s group as a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow, where she studied the interaction of Shigella with gut cells. At the same time she evolved a major interest for cellular biology focusing on the molecular mechanisms responsible of cell differentiation in the human Barrett’s syndrome. She then joined the group of Ludger Johannes at the Curie Institute in Paris where she started a project on the dynamics of membrane and vesicles trafficking in eukaryotic cells following IFNα and IFNγ internalization. In 2005, Marta joined the group of Catherine Masson-Boivin and Jacques Batut as permanent INRA researcher. She is involved in the experimental evolution project. Her current research is focusing on the phenotypic characterization of evolved clones by combining cell biology (high throughput image analysis) to genetic approaches.


Anne-Marie Garneronne, INRA engineer


Anne-Marie obtained a Master 2 in Microbiology from the University Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, in 1982. She was then recruited at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA). Her work on Sinorhizobium meliloti was to study the nitrogen fixation genes and the regulators implicated in signal transduction. Now she is involved in the study of cyclic cAMP signaling and its role in the control of infection during the symbiosis between S. meliloti and its host M. sativa.


Fernando Sorroche, Agreenskills fellow

Fernando Sorroche

Fernando Sorroche completed a 5-years degree program in Microbiology at Universidad Nacional de Rio Cuarto, Argentina. Then he obtained a PhD in Biological Sciences from same university. Using Sinorhizobium meliloti as a model, he studied the role of extracellular and surface components of the bacteria involved in biofilm formation and autoaggregation, as well as their involvement at the very initial physical contacts between the host plant and the bacteria. As as a postdoc researcher at the University of Lund in Sweden, he worked with the filamentous bacteria Streptomyces, exploring polar growth and differentiation, and focusing on how protoplasts (single cell units without cell wall) reorganize and regenerate filamentous cell-walled bacteria again. In 2012 he was awarded an Agreenskills Fellowship to join the C. Masson-J. Batut  Lab. His research project involves the isolation and identification of a plant signal that activates a cAMP cascade in S. meliloti.


Benoit Daubech, PHD student

Benoit Daubech

Benoit obtained a Master 2 in Plant Biosciences from the University Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, in 2016. He was then recruited at the LIPM in Catherine Masson’s group to perform his PhD. His project focuses on the selection forces and genetic mechanisms that favor or prevent the evolution of mutualism in the rhizobium-legume symbiosis.


Lan Zou, PHD student

Lan Zou

Lan ZOU obtained her master degree in Microbiology from Sichuan Agricultural University, China. During her master, she mainly worked on the genetic diversity and phylogeny of faba bean rhizobia, also screening of the highly effective rhizobia for field production. In 2016, she was awarded a scholarship from Chinese goverment (China Scholarship Council) to continue her PhD study in LIPM in the C-Masson and J-Batut group. Her research project mainly concerns the mechanism for autoregulation of infection of Medicago-Sinorhizobium meliloti symbiosis.


Mingxing Tang, PHD student

Mingxing Tang

Mingxing Tang obtained his master’s degree in the University of Chinese Academy of Science. During his master-period study from 2013, he focused on microbial diversity in seawater and symbiosis between microalgae and bacteria, and completed polyphasic taxonomy of three novel marine bacteria. In 2016, he was funded by Chinese Scholarship Council and started his PhD program in LIPM, supervised by Catherine Masson-Boivin and Delphine Capela.  He is mainly involved in the researches on adaptation to intracellularity during experimental evolution of Mimosa symbionts.