Department of Biological Sciences   College of Arts and Sciences   University of North Texas
Dr. Rebecca Dickstein

Dr. Dickstein
Photo by Dr. S. Banks

Contact Information
Rebecca Dickstein, Ph.D.
    Postal Address
    Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas
    1155 Union Circle #305220, Denton, TX 76203-5017
    Phone: 1-940-565-3359; Fax: 1-940-565-3821
    Physical/Delivery Address
    Life Sciences Complex
    1511 West Sycamore RM# LS A114
    Denton, TX 76203-5017

B.S. Biochemistry, Pennsylvania State University
Ph.D. Biochemistry, Johns Hopkins University
Post doc: Molecular Biology and Genetics, Mass General Hospital and Harvard University

Current Courses
Biochemistry I
Advanced Molecular Biology
Signal Transduction and Biochemical Regulation
Topics in Contemporary Plant Biology

Nitrogen is an essential component of all living systems. Symbiotic nitrogen fixation within legume root nodules is a major route for nitrogen to enter the food chain.  Symbiotic nitrogen fixing root nodules form on the roots of legumes as a result of interactions between a legume host plant and soil bacteria collectively called rhizobia. Symbiotic nitrogen fixation allows the legume host to thrive in the absence of added nitrogen fertilizer and adds bioavailable nitrogen to agricultural systems and the environment. Dr. Dickstein’s research group's emphasis is to understand the development of symbiotic nitrogen fixing root nodules. Research in the lab is focused rhizobial invasion of the root through specialized structures called infection threads and rhizoial infection of newly divided cells in the developing nodule through a process resembling endocytosis to form novel organelle-like structures in plant host cells called symbiosomes. The lab is also investigating the role of bioavailable nitrogen sources, like nitrate, during nodule development. Most of our current work uses Medicago truncatula, which has been selected as a model species for genetic and genomic studies by an increasing number of researchers.

In symbiotic nitrogen fixing root nodules, the plant provides the nodule rhizobia with carbohydrate from photosynthesis in exchange for the reduced or “fixed” nitrogen from the rhizobia.

X-gal nodule

A wild-type Medicago truncatula nodule carrying rhizobia expressing a constitutive lacZ gene was sectioned and stained with X-Gal, a substrate for the b-galactosidase encoded by lacZ, which turns blue when acted on by b-galactosidase.  Thus, the blue color reports the location of rhizobia within nodules.  (Image, Dr. Catalina Pislariu)

Professional Activities

American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Society of Plant Physiologists
Southern Section of the American Society of Plant Physiologists
        Advisory Board 2012-2016
        Chair, 2011-2012
        Vice Chair, 2010-2011
        Secretary/Treasurer, 2009-2010
International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
Advisory Board, UNT Ronald E. Mcnair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program

Recent Publications
R. Bagchi, R., M. Salehin, O. S. Adeyemo, C. Salazar, V. Shulaev, D. J. Sherrier and R. Dickstein (2012). Functional assessment of the Medicago NIP/LATD protein demonstrates that it is a high affinity nitrate transporter.   Plant Physiology, pp.112.196444; doi:10.1104/pp.112.196444.
M. H. Meckfessel, E. B. Blancaflor, M. Plunkett, Q. Dong, and R. Dickstein (2012).  Multiple domains in MtENOD8 protein target it to the symbiosome including its signal peptide.Plant Physiology, 159:  299–310.
C. L. Webber, III, R. Dickstein, B.G. Ayre, N.A. D'Souza, K.J. Stevens, K. Chapman, M.S. Allen, and K.M. Dagnon. 2011. Monoculture and polyculture: Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus) and sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea). Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Restoration 7:26-33
J. M. Harris and R. Dickstein. 2010. Control of root architecture and nodulation by the LATD/NIP transporter. Plant Signaling and Behavior 5, 1386-1390.
C. R. Yendrek, ,Y.-C. Lee, V. Morris, Y. Liang, C. I. Pislariu, G. Burkhart, M. H. Meckfessel, M. Salehin, H. Kessler, H. Wessler, M. Lloyd, H. Lutton, A. Teillet, D. J. Sherrier, E.-P. Journet, J. M. Harris and R. Dickstein. 2010. A putative transporter is essential for integrating nutrient and hormone signaling with lateral root growth and nodule development in Medicago truncatula. Plant J. 62: 100-112.
L. Coque, P. Neogi, C. Pislariu, K. A. Wilson, C. Catalano, M. Avadhani, D. J. Sherrier, and R. Dickstein. 2008. Transcription of ENOD8 in Medicago truncatula nodules directs ENOD8 esterase to developing and mature symbiosomes.  Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions 21: p. 404-410.

Native Plants
In addition to her work on symbiotic nitrogen fixation, Dr. Dickstein is interested in the importance of native Texas plants to gardens, landscapes and ecosystems in the North Texas region.  Native Texas plants can withstand the tough summers in the region and can also provide important food and habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, as well as give local gardens and yards a Texas look.  Dr. Dickstein writes a quarterly newspaper column for local newspapers and information sheets for the Natives Instead of Common Exotics (NICE!) program of the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

Last Noted Update: September 17, 2012.