Catalina I. Pislariu, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Catalina I. Pislariu, Ph.D.

GRB 329


Dr. Catalina Iulia Pislariu earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Bucharest, Romania, her Master of Pharmaceutical Sciences from Ghent University, Belgium, and her PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of North Texas. Under the mentorship of Dr. Rebecca Dickstein, she characterized the Incomplete Root Hair Elongation gene in the model legume Medicago truncatula. She completed postdoctoral training with Dr. Dickstein, and then with Dr. Michael Udvardi at the Noble Research Institute (NRI), where she continued to uncover genetic controls of symbiotic nitrogen fixation (SNF), an environmentally-friendly process in which legumes acquire reduced nitrogen through symbiotic associations with specific bacteria in the soil. In 2015, Dr. Pislariu was appointed Assistant Professor at Texas A&M International University, and, in 2017, she joined the faculty in the Biology Department at Texas Woman’s University. Dr. Pislariu published 14 peer-reviewed articles and 3 book chapters, and is Co-Principal Investigator on a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The Pislariu lab at TWU is focused on uncovering new genetic mechanisms of symbiotic nitrogen fixation.


Ph.D., Molecular Biology, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas
M.S., Pharmacy, University of Gent, Gent, Belgium
B.S., Biology, University of Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania

Research Interests

Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation; Plant-Microbe Interactions; Forward and Reverse Genetics; Plant Cell and Molecular Biology; Legume Research; Symbiosis

Latest Articles

Celebrating 20 years of genetic discoveries in legume nodulation and symbiotic nitrogen fixation
The Plant Cell (2020)
Sonali Roy, Wei Liu, Raja Sekhar Nandety, Ashley Crook, Kirankumar S Mysore

The future of legume genetics data resources: Challenges, opportunities, and priorities
Legume Science (2019)
Guillaume J Bauchet, Kristin E Bett, Connor T Cameron, Jacqueline D Campbell, Ethalinda K.S. Cannon

The nodule-specific PLAT domain protein NPD1 is required for nitrogen-fixing symbiosis
Plant Physiology (2019)
Catalina I Pislariu, Senjuti Sinharoy, Ivone Torres-Jerez, Jin Nakashima, Elison B Blancaflor

An iron-activated citrate transporter, MtMATE67, is required for symbiotic nitrogen fixation
Plant Physiology (2018)
Igor Kryvoruchko, Pratyush Routray, Senjuti Sinharoy, Ivone Torres-Jerez, Manuel Tejada-Jimenez

MtSWEET11, a nodule-specific sucrose transporter of Medicago truncatula
Plant Physiology (2016)
Igor Kryvoruchko, Senjuti Sinharoy, Ivone Torres-Jerez, Davide Sosso, Catalina I Pislariu


Functional Genomics of Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation in Legumes with a Focus on Transcription Factors and Membrane Transporters
in Biological Nitrogen Fixation | Wiley & Sons (2015)
Senjuti Sinharoy, Igor Kryvoruchko, Catalina Pislariu, Manuel Gonzalez-Guerrero, Vagner A Benedito

Retrotransposon (Tnt1)‐Insertion Mutagenesis in Medicago as a Tool for Genetic Dissection of Symbiosis in Legumes
in Biological Nitrogen Fixation | Wiley & Sons (2015)
Catalina Pislariu, Senjuti Sinharoy, Jiangqi Wen, Jeremy Murray, Pascal Ratet

A high-throughput RNA interference (RNAi)-based approach using hairy roots for the study of plant–rhizobia interactions
in Plant Gene Silencing; Methods and Protocols | Humana Press (2015)
Senjuti Sinharoy, Catalina Pislariu, Michael K Udvardi

Current Projects

Functional Genomics of Beneficial Legume-Microbe Interactions. Legumes, including staple crops, are integral to sustainable agriculture due to their ability to establish symbiotic interactions with nitrogen fixing soil bacteria and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. This project, developed by a consortium of investigators from six institutions, funded by the National Science Foundation, aims to identify key genes involved in these symbioses by taking advantage of a large tobacco retrotransposon (Tnt1) ‐ insertion mutant population developed in the model legume Medicago truncatula, which allows genome‐wide, non‐biased forward genetic screens. My lab’s contribution focusses on forward screening for symbiotic mutants and functional characterization of novel Medicago genes required for N-fixing symbiosis.
Functional characterization of nodule-specific PLAT domain genes. One of the Tnt1-insertion symbiotic mutants isolated from the Medicago truncatula mutant collection was disrupted in a nodule-specific polycystin-1, lipoxygenase, alpha-toxin (PLAT) domain-encoding gene, NPD1, resulting in development of ineffective nodules (Pislariu et. Al, 2019). This gene belongs to a cluster of five nodule-specific PLAT domain genes with putative non-redundant functions; we are investigating their roles in symbiosis using genetic, molecular and biochemical approaches.

Genetic dissection of host-strain specificity in legume-rhizobia interactions and nitrogen-fixation efficiency. Symbiotic associations between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria (collectively referred to as rhizobia) are highly specific. More than 50 Sinorhizobium strains can potentially colonize Medicago truncatula, some being allowed to enter and develop into nitrogen-fixing bacteroids inside root nodule cells, others being denied entry, or degraded soon after entering host cells. Compatible symbiotic interactions can also result in various degrees of nitrogen fixation efficiency. We are using genetic, molecular, and microscopic approaches to dissect host-symbiont associations to inform low input agricultural practices.

Externally Funded Projects

Research-PGR: Functional genomics of beneficial legume-microbe interactions Year 4 of 4
GOV-National Science Foundation (NSF) | $81,428.00 | 2020
Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Research-PGR: Functional genomics of beneficial legume-microbe interactions Year 3 of 4
GOV-National Science Foundation (NSF) | $111,710.00 | 2019
Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Research-PGR: Functional genomics of beneficial legume-microbe interactions Year 2 of 4
GOV-National Science Foundation (NSF) | $105,779.00 | 2018
Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Research-PGR: Functional genomics of beneficial legume-microbe interactions Year 1 of 4
GOV-National Science Foundation (NSF) | $31,567.00 | 2017
Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Acquisition of a multi-user laser scanning confocal microscope to enhance interdisciplinary research, curriculum development, and minority students' interest in STEM careers Year 1 of 3
National Science Foundation - Major Research Instrumentation Program | $398,112.00 | 2017
Role: Principal Investigator

Internally Funded Projects

New Legume Signaling Peptides Required for the Nitrogen-fixing Symbiosis and Host-strain Specificity
TWU - ORSP Research Enhancement Program (REP) | $4,464.00 | 2018
Research Grant

TARGET: Acquisition of the Intuvo 9000 Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) system from Agilent
TWU - ORSP. TARGET (Teaching and Research Grant for Equipment and Technology) | $109,449.00 | 2018
Research Grant

New Legume Signaling Peptides Required for the Nitrogen-fixing Symbiosis and Host-strain Specificity
TWU - ORSP Research Enhancement Program (REP) | $5,536.00 | 2017
Research Grant

Deconstructing symbiotic nitrogen fixation: PLAT domain-encoding genes and their roles in host-strain specificity
Texas A&M International University - University Research Grants (URG) | $10,000.00 | 2016
Research Grant

Professional Affiliations

  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • Texas Society for Microscopy
  • The Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society