Hungary / France

Eva Kondorosi

2018 Balzan Prize for Chemical Ecology

For her important contributions to chemical ecology by her groundbreaking studies of the molecular biology of the symbiosis between legume plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, including the identification of nodulation genes and Nod factor family components, expression of nodulation genes by flavonoids, and cell cycle regulation and bacteroid differentiation during the establishment of the symbiosis.

Eva Kondorosi was born in Hungary and educated at Eötvös University in Budapest. She has worked at the Max-Planck-Institut für Züchtungsforschung in Cologne, the CNRS in France, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
She is celebrated for her work on understanding the interactions between legume plants and diverse symbiotic bacteria known as rhizobia. The plant responds to the presence of rhizobia by creating nodules on the roots within which the bacteria live. The bacteria in the nodules are able to convert airborne nitrogen to ammonia, a form usable to the plant, thus providing a critical nitrogen nutrient that is often limiting in the environment. The formation of nodules and the transformation of the bacterium from a free-living to a symbiotic form are governed by a complex series of chemical signals exchanged between the two partners. Eva Kondorosi is renowned for her work on dissecting this interaction; identifying the Rhizobium nodulation genes whose products, the Nod factors, trigger nodule development and bacterial infection in the host plant and discovering hundreds of nodule cysteine-rich plant peptides which are important signaling molecules and effectors of the differentiation of endosymbionts.
In addition to its importance for fundamental science, a better understanding of nitrogen fixation is critical for future food security and for reducing society’s reliance on energy-expensive artificial fertilizers whose production is a major source of greenhouse gases.
Eva Kondorosi is Vice President of the Scientific Council of the ERC and Domain Coordinator for the Life Sciences. In addition, she chairs the ERC Working Group on Widening European Participation in the ERC, championing the unlocking of scientific excellence at a full European scale, and in particular stimulating young scientists to apply for ERC grants.

Research Professor, Biological Research Centre, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HU)

Research Director, Plant Science Institute, CNRS (FR)

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