Interactions of bacteria with plants


Many bacteria produce small diffusible signal molecules to co-ordinate expression of particular phenotypic traits, a phenomenon known as quorum sensing (QS). Often the regulated functions are involved in the pathogenesis or symbiosis of the bacteria. Hence, QS not only enables bacteria to communicate with each other but also provides an interface for interactions with their eukaryotic hosts. Our main interest is to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying QS in members of the genus Burkholderia and to understand the role of QS for the ecology of the organisms in their natural habitats, particularly for pathogenic or symbiotic interactions with plants.

Inhibition of quorum sensing was shown to represent a highly attractive option for the treatment of bacterial infections in humans. Using genetic and biochemical tools we have developed a high throughput screen to identify respective drug candidates. The main focus of this line of research is in the detection of compounds in vegetables, spices and plants.

Recent Publications

  • Leaf nodule endosymbiotic Burkholderia confer targeted allelopathy to their Psychotria hosts
    Georgiou, Antri; Sieber, Simon; Hsiao, Chien-Chi; Grayfer, Tatyana; Gorenflos Lopez, Jacob L.; Gademann, Karl; Eberl, Leo; Bailly, Aurelien
    Scientific Reports 10.1038/s41598-021-01867-2  NOV 17 2021
  • Identification of genes required for gold and silver tolerance in Burkholderia cenocepacia H111 by transposon sequencing
    Gualdi, Stefano; Agnoli, Kirsty; Vitale, Alessandra; Higgins, Steven; Eberl, Leo
    Environmental Microbiology 10.1111/1462-2920.15471  SEP 2021
  • Mitigation of Pseudomonas syringae virulence by signal inactivation
    Sieber, Simon; Mathew, Anugraha; Jenul, Christian; Kohler, Tobias; Baer, Max; et al.
    Science Advances 10.1126/sciadv.abg2293  SEP 2021
  • Bacterial surface properties influence the activity of the TAT-RasGAP(317-326) antimicrobial peptide
    Georgieva, Maria; Heinonen, Tytti; Vitale, Alessandra; Hargraves, Simone; Causevic, Senka; et al.
    Iscience 10.1016/j.isci.2021.102923 AUG 20 2021
  • Metabolomics and Dual RNA-Sequencing on Root Nodules Revealed New Cellular Functions Controlled by Paraburkholderia phymatum NifA
    Belles-Sancho, Paula; Lardi, Martina; Liu, Yilei; Eberl, Leo; Zamboni, Nicola; Bailly, Aurelien
    Metabolites 10.3390/metabo11070455  JUL 2021
  • NirA Is an Alternative Nitrite Reductase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa with Potential as an Antivirulence Target
    Fenn, Samuel; Dubern, Jean-Frederic; Cigana, Cristina; De Simone, Maura; Lazenby, James; et al.
    Mbio 10.1128/mBio.00207-21  MAR-APR 2021
  • Roadmap on emerging concepts in the physical biology of bacterial biofilms: from surface sensing to community formation
    Wong, Gerard C. L.; Antani, Jyot D.; Lele, Pushkar P.; Chen, Jing; Nan, Beiyan; et al.
    Physical Biology 10.1088/1478-3975/abdc0e  SEP 2021
  • Investigation of Burkholderia cepacia Complex Methylomes via Single-Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing and Mutant Analysis
    Mannweiler, Olga; Pinto-Carbo, Marta; Lardi, Martina; Agnoli, Kirsty; Eberl, Leo
    Journal Of Bacteriology10.1128/JB.00683-20 JUN 2021
  • Detection of cytosine methylation in Burkholderia cenocepacia by single- molecule real- time sequencing and whole- genome bisulfite sequencing
    Vandenbussche, Ian; Sass, Andrea; Van Nieuwerburgh, Filip; Pinto-Carbo, Marta; Mannweiler, Olga; et al.
    Microbiology-sgm 10.1099/mic.0.001027  JAN 2021
  • Understanding plant-microorganism interactions to envision a future of sustainable agriculture
    Bernal, Patricia; Eberl, Leo; de Jonge, Ronnie; Lepek, Viviana C.; Malone, Jacob G.
    Environmental Microbiology  10.1111/1462-2920.15479  Published: APR 2021
  • Role of extracellular matrix components in the formation of biofilms and their contribution to the biocontrol activity of Pseudomonas chlororaphis PCL1606
    Heredia-Ponce, Zaira; Gutierrez-Barranquero, Jose Antonio; Purtschert-Montenegro, Gabriela; Eberl, Leo; de Vicente, Antonio; et al.
    Environmental Microbiology, 10.1111/1462-2920.15355   DEC 2020
  • Mapping of the Denitrification Pathway in Burkholderia thailandensis by Genome-Wide Mutant Profiling
    Vitale, Alessandra; Paszti, Sarah; Takahashi, Kohei; Toyofuku, Masanori; Pessi, Gabriella; et al.
    Journal Of Bacteriology  DOI: 10.1128/JB.00304-20 DEC 2020
  • A microfluidic platform for in situ investigation of biofilm formation and its treatment under controlled conditions
    Straub, Herve; Eberl, Leo; Zinn, Manfred; Rossi, Rene M.; Maniura-Weber, Katharina; et al.
    Journal Of Nanobiotechnology  DOI: 10.1186/s12951-020-00724-0  NOV 11 2020
  • Biological role of EPS from Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae UMAF0158 extracellular matrix, focusing on a Psl-like polysaccharide
    Heredia-Ponce, Zaira; Gutierrez-Barranquero, Jose Antonio; Purtschert-Montenegro, Gabriela; Eberl, Leo; Cazorla, Francisco M.; et al.
    Npj Biofilms And Microbiomes  DOI: 10.1038/s41522-020-00148-6     OCT 12 2020
  • DNA Methylation Epigenetically Regulates Gene Expression in Burkholderia cenocepacia and Controls Biofilm Formation, Cell Aggregation, and Motility
    Vandenbussche, Ian; Sass, Andrea; Pinto-Carbo, Marta; Mannweiler, Olga; Eberl, Leo; et al.
    Msphere  DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00455-20  JUL-AUG 2020
  • Deciphering the Enigmatic Function ofPseudomonasMetallothioneins
    Habjanic, Jelena; Mathew, Anugraha; Eberl, Leo; Freisinger, Eva
    Frontiers In Microbiology  DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01709  JUL 22 2020
  • Identification of Genes Required for Resistance to Peptidomimetic Antibiotics by Transposon Sequencing
    Vitale, Alessandra; Pessi, Gabriella; Urfer, Matthias; Locher, Hans H.; Zerbe, Katja; et al.
    Frontiers In Microbiology  DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01681  JUL 23 2020
  • The Exopolysaccharide Cepacian Plays a Role in the Establishment of the Paraburkholderia phymatum-Phaseolus vulgaris Symbiosis
    Liu, Yilei; Bellich, Barbara; Hug, Sebastian; Eberl, Leo; Cescutti, Paola; et al.
    Frontiers In Microbiology  DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01600  JUL 16 2020
  • Biosynthesis and Structure-Activity Relationship Investigations of the Diazeniumdiolate Antifungal Agent Fragin
    Sieber, Simon; Daeppen, Christophe; Jenul, Christian; Mannancherril, Vidya; Eberl, Leo; et al.
    Chembiochem   DOI: 10.1002/cbic.201900755 Published: JUN 2 2020
  • The effect of flow on swimming bacteria controls the initial colonization of curved surfaces
    Secchi, E; Vitale, A; Mino, GL; Kantsler, V; Eberl, L; Rusconi, R; Stocker, R
    Nature Communications 2020, 10.1038/s41467-020-16620-y
  • Copper resistance genes of Burkholderia cenocepacia H111 identified by transposon sequencing
    Higgins, Steven; Gualdi, Stefano; Pinto-Carbo, Marta; Eberl, Leo
    Environmental Microbiology Reports  12(2): 241-249 DOI: 10.1111/1758-2229.12828   APR 2020
    Early Access: FEB 2020
  • Chimeric peptidomimetic antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria
    Luther, Anatol; Urfer, Matthias; Zahn, Michael; Mueller, Maik; Wang, Shuang-Yan; et al.
    Nature, 10.1038/s41586-019-1665-6, Published: DEC 19 2019
Eberl Leo

Prof. Dr. Leo Eberl
University of Zurich
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 634 82 20

Research topics

  • Quorum sensing in bacteria
  • Bacteria-plant interactions
  • Burkholderia diversity
  • Plant-derived QS blocker


  • Functional genomics
  • Secondary metabolites Infection models
  • Bacteria-host interactions