Dr Jason Terpolilli, Senior Lecturer
BSc (Hons). PhD

Research Director Centre for Rhizobium Studies

About me

I graduated with a BSc with Honours in Molecular Biology from Murdoch (2003), and after after working for 2 years at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, I returned to Murdoch to complete my PhD in Microbiology (2009). I then took up a postdoctoral research position within research group of Professor Philip Poole at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom. I returned to Murdoch University in 2012 to take on a role as Lecturer within the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences.

My research focuses on understanding the interaction between soil bacteria (rhizobia) and their legume hosts. Rhizobia are unique in their ability to “fix” atmospheric nitrogen into plant-available nitrogen via their symbiotic association with legumes. In agriculture, when legumes are inoculated with elite rhizobial strains in crop rotations, all the nitrogen demands of the legume and subsequent cereal crops can be met, without the need for energy-expensive and CO2-producing industrially synthesised fertilisers. In Australia, nitrogen fixation is worth in excess of $3 billion pa to Australian agriculture and is critical to ensuring food security and maintaining productive farming systems.

However, an unplanned consequence of inoculation is that DNA carrying symbiosis genes (symbiosis islands) may horizontally transfer to native soil bacteria, producing hybrid rhizobia that fix nitrogen poorly on the legume host. These suboptimal hybrid rhizobia compete with the inoculant strain to nodulate the target legume, resulting in reduced benefits to the agricultural system. My research seeks to understand and manage suboptimal nitrogen fixation and competition by unraveling the genetic and metabolic determinants of highly efficient symbiotic interactions, using a combination of cutting edge ‘omics technologies along with traditional microbial and physiological approaches.

Teaching area

Currently, I teach and coordinate BIO247 Biochemistry and co-coordinate BIO390 Cellular and Metabolic Biochemistry and VLS683 Advanced Research Methods for Scientists. I also contribute to teaching in BIO246 Microbiology.

Research areas

My specific areas of research are:

  1. Managing genetic instability of commerical inoculants for the crop legume chickpea (Cicer arietinum) and pasture legume biserrula (Biserrula pelecinus).
  2. Unraveling the genetic causes of suboptimal nitrogen fixation with the aim of identifying the genetic basis of highly effective symbioses.
  3. Understanding the impact of bacterial horizontal gene transfer on the evolution of symbiotic nitrogen fixation.
  4. Characterizing nutrient exchange pathways in host-endosymbiotic interactions
  5. Discovering the mechanism by which organelle-like bacteroids feed and fuel the process of nitrogen fixation

Current projects

If you are interested in undertaking Honours in molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry or related areas please check the Centre for Rhizobium Studies Prospective Students page for a description of some possible research projects. Options to develop specific research projects to cater for individual students are also available. If you have any questions or would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Honours scholarships are also available for projects undertaken through the Centre for Rhizobium Studies.

Awards and grants

  • 2019-2024 Grains Research and Development Corporation. Preserving Australia’s rhizobial collections to benefit the Australian grain industry. Graham O’Hara, Jason Terpolilli, John Howieson, Ron Yates, Bradley Nutt ($1,550,155)
  • 2019-2022 Grains Research and Development Corporation. Increasing the effectiveness of nitrogen fixation in pulses through improved rhizobial strains in the GRDC Western Region. John Howieson, Graham O’Hara, Jason Terpolilli, Ron Yates, Bradley Nutt, Chris Poole. ($1,800,000)
  • 2017-2020     AW Howard Memorial Trust research project. Symbiotic effectiveness and genetic stability of novel inoculants for the perennial pasture legume Lebeckia ambigua. Talitha Rogers*, Jason Terpolilli ($30,000).
  • 2015-2018     Grains Research and Development Corporation project (GRS10939) “Symbiotic effectiveness and genetic stability of Mesorhizobium root nodule bacteria” Jason Terpolilli, Timothy Haskett*, Graham O’Hara ($88,158).
  • 2017 AW Howard Memorial Trust travel grant to visit Professor Philip Poole (University of Oxford) and to deliver oral presentations and attend 20th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation (Granada, Spain). Timothy Haskett, Jason Terpolilli ($7,260).
  • 2015  AW Howard Memorial Trust Travel Grant (IRMA ID 16436) to deliver an oral presentation at 19th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation, Asilomar USA. Jason Terpolilli ($2,860).
  • 2015  Farrer Memorial Trust Travelling Scholarship 2015/2016 (DGP015/115) for Timothy Haskett to attend and present a poster at 19th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation. (IRMA ID 16509). Timothy Haskett, Jason Terpolilli ($5,000).
  • 2014 Grains Research and Development Corporation Travel Grant (GTA10709) to present an oral presentation at the Department of Plant Sciences (University of Oxford) and to attend and present a poster at 11th European Nitrogen Fixation Conference (IRMA 15510). Jason Terpolilli ($2,200)
  • 2014-2017 Sir Walter Murdoch Adjunct Professorship for Professor Philip Poole, (Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford). Jason Terpolilli, John Howieson ($75,000).
  • 2014-2018  ALOSCA Honours Scholarship awarded annually to a student undertaking an Honours project in rhizobia, nitrogen fixation or legumes. Stipend of $2000/year. Jason Terpolilli ($10,000).
  • 2012-2017  Grains Research and Development Corporation project (UMU00040) Maintenance of rhizobial germplasm resources. Graham O’Hara, John Howieson, Jason Terpolilli ($235,000)

Events and speaking engagements

  • 2017 Keeping nitrogen fixation optimised by managing the evolution of suboptimally efficient rhizobia. International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation Conference. Granada, Spain Sept 2017.  Oral presentation
  • 2016 Nitrogen fixation and horizontal gene transfer in newly evolved Mesorhizobium microsymbionts. Australian Society for Microbiology Perth, Australia, Jul 2016. Oral presentation
  • 2015 Nitrogen fixation and horizontal gene transfer in newly evolved Mesorhizobium microsymbionts. 19th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation Conference.  Asilomar, USA Sep 2015.  Oral presentation
  • 2014 Unravelling the basis of suboptimal and ineffective N2 fixation in newly evolved species of Mesorhizobium. 17th Australian Nitrogen Fixation Conference. Adelaide, Australia Oct 2014. Oral presentation

Doctoral and masters supervisions

Current (PhD)

  • Talitha Rogers: The physiology and energetics of respiratory systems in Burkholderia species
  • Tahlia Bastholm: Characterisation of quorum sensing systems in Mesorhizobium
  • Kit Burns: Cross-compatibility and genetic stability of rhizobia to maximise nitrogen fixation in new and existing inoculants
  • Georgina Stagg: Genetic determinants of host range in Mesorhizobium ciceri with the pasture legume Biserrula pelecinus 

Past (PhD)

  • Timothy Haskett: Discovery and characterisation of tripartite Integrative & Conjugative Elements (Completed 2018)
  • George Mwenda:  Characterization of nitrogen-fixing bacteria from Phaseolus vulgaris L. in Kenya (completed 2017)
  • Amanuel Bekuma: Symbiotic effectiveness, phylogeny and genetic stability of Biserrula pelecinus-nodulating Mesorhizobium sp. isolated from Eritrea and Ethiopia. (completed 2017)

Honours (Current)

  • Alireza Agha Amiri: Activation of nitrogen fixation in the rhizobia in the genus Mesorhizobium

Honours (Past)

  • Kit Burns: Characterisation of microsymbionts of Scorpiurus muricatus (Completed 2019)
  • Georgina Stagg: Stability and evolution of Mesorhizobium symbiosis integrative and conjugative elements (Completed 2018)
  • Emma Bonello: Towards a minimal genome for Mesorhziobium ciceri (Completed 2018)
  • Rachel Brewer: Investigating the symbiotic role of plasmid pMESCI01 in Mesorhizobium ciceri bv. biserrulae WSM1271 with Biserrula pelecinus (Completed 2017)
  • Talitha Rogers: Free-living and symbiotic characterisation of carbon utilisation mutants in Rhizobium tropici CIAT899 (Completed 2015)
  • Timothy Haskett: Investigating the molecular basis of symbiotic host-specificity in Sinorhizobium medicae WSM419 (Completed 2014)

Publications

Chapters

  • Yates, R., Howieson, J., Hungria, M., Bala, A., O'Hara, G., Terpolilli, J., (2016),Authentication of rhizobia and assessment of the legume symbiosis in controlled plant growth systems,In: Working with rhizobia, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), pages 73 to 108.

Journals

  • Mwenda, G., O'Hara, G., De Meyer, S., Howieson, J., Terpolilli, J., (2018), Genetic diversity and symbiotic effectiveness of Phaseolus vulgaris-nodulating rhizobia in Kenya, Systematic and Applied Microbiology, 41, 4, pages 291 - 299.
  • Haskett, T., Terpolilli, J., Ramachandran, V., Verdonk, C., Poole, P., O'Hara, G., Ramsay, J., (2018), Sequential induction of three recombinationdirectionality factors directs assembly oftripartite integrative and conjugativeelements, PLoS Genetics (Print), 14, 3, pages -.
  • Poole, P., Ramachandran, V., Terpolilli, J., (2018), Rhizobia: from saprophytes to endosymbionts, Nature Reviews. Microbiology, 16, May, pages 291 - 303.
  • Brewer, R., Haskett, T., Ramsay, J., O'Hara, G., Terpolilli, J., (2017), Complete Genome Sequence of Mesorhizobium ciceri bv. biserrulae WSM1497, an Efficient Nitrogen-FixingMicrosymbiont of the Forage Legume Biserrula pelecinus, Genome Announcements, 5, 35, pages -.
  • Haskett, T., Ramsay, J., Bekuma, A., Sullivan, J., O'Hara, G., Terpolilli, J., (2017), Evolutionary persistence of tripartite integrative and conjugative elements, Plasmid, 92, , pages 30 - 36.
  • Pini, F., East, A., Appia-Ayme, C., Tomek, J., Karunakaran, R., Mendoza-Suarez, M., Edwards, A., Terpolilli, J., Roworth, J., Downie, A., Poole, P., (2017), Bacterial Biosensors for in Vivo SpatiotemporalMapping of Root Secretion, Plant Physiology, 174, 3, pages 1289 - 1306.
  • Haskett, T., Terpolilli, J., Bekuma, A., O'Hara, G., Sullivan, J., Wang, P., Ronson, C., Ramsay, J., (2016), Assembly and transfer of tripartite integrative and conjugative genetic elements, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the Unitesd States of America, 113, 43, pages 12268 - 12273.
  • Terpolilli, J., Masakapalli, S., Karunakaran, R., Webb, I., Green, R., Watmough, N., Kruger, N., Ratcliffe, R., Poole, P., (2016), Lipogenesis and Redox Balance in Nitrogen-Fixing Pea Bacteroids, Journal of Bacteriology, 198, 20, pages 2864 - 2875.
  • Haskett, T., Wang, P., Reeve, W., Howieson, J., Terpolilli, J., Ramsay, J., O'Hara, G., (2016), Complete genome of Mesorhizobium ciceri Strain CC1192, an efficient nitrogen-fixing microsymbiont of Cicer arietinum (PLEASE UPLOAD FINAL PUBLISHED ARTICLE WHEN AVAIL TQ & COMPLETE ENTRY request email sent by TR), Genome Announcements, 4, 3, pages -.
  • Haskett, T., Wang, P., Ramsay, J., O'Hara, G., Reeve, W., Howieson, J., Terpolilli, J., (2016), COMPLETE GENOME SEQUENCE OF MESORHIZOBIUM CICERI STRAIN CC1192 AN EFFICIENT NITROGEN FIXING MICROSYMBIONT OF CICER ARIETINUM, Genome Announcements, 4, 3, pages -.
  • Haskett, T., Wang, P., Ramsay, J., O'Hara, G., Reeve, W., Howieson, J., Terpolilli, J., (2016), COMPLETE GENOME SEQUENCE OF MESORHIZOBIUM CICERI BV BISERRULAE STRAIN WSM1284 AN EFFICIENT NITROGEN FIXING MICROSYMBIONT OF THE PASTURE LEGUME BISERRULA PELECINUS, Genome Announcements, 4, 3, pages -.
  • Reeve, W., Ardley, J., Tian, R., De Meyer, S., Terpolilli, J., Melino, V., Tiwari, R., Yates, R., O'Hara, G., Howieson, J., Ninawi, M., Zhang, X., Bruce, D., Detter, C., Tapia, R., Han, C., Wei, C., Huntemann, M., Han, J., Chen, I., Mavromatis, K., Markowitz, V., Szeto, E., Ivanova, N., Pagani, I., Pati, A., Goodwin, L., Woyke, T., Kyrpides, N., (2014), Genome sequence of the Listia angolensis microsymbiont Microvirga lotononidis strain WSM3557(T), Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 3, pages 540 - 550.
  • Terpolilli, J., Tian, R., Yates, R., Howieson, J., Reeve, W., Poole, P., Munk, C., Tapia, R., Han, C., Markowitz, V., Tatiparthi, R., Mavrommatis, K., Ivanova, N., Pati, A., Goodwin, L., Woyke, T., Kyrpides, N., (2014), Genome sequence of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv trifolii strain WSM1689, the microsymbiont of the one flowered clover Trifolium uniflorum, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 3, pages 527 - 539.
  • Garau, G., Terpolilli, J., Hill, Y., Tian, R., Howieson, J., Brau, L., Goodwin, L., Han, C., Reddy, T., Huntemann, M., Pati, A., Woyke, T., Mavrommatis, K., Markowitz, V., Ivanova, N., Kyrpides, N., Reeve, W., (2014), Genome sequence of Ensifer medicae Di28; an effective N-2-fixing microsymbiont of Medicago murex and M-polymorpha, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 1, pages 0 - 0.
  • Terpolilli, J., Hill, Y., Tian, R., Howieson, J., Brau, L., Goodwin, L., Han, J., Liolios, K., Huntemann, M., Pati, A., Woyke, T., Mavromatis, K., Markowitz, V., Ivanova, N., Kyrpides, N., Reeve, W., (2013), Genome sequence of Ensifer meliloti strain WSM1022; a highly effective microsymbiont of the model legume Medicago truncatula A17, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 2, pages 315 - 324.
  • Terpolilli, J., Garau, G., Hill, Y., Tian, R., Howieson, J., Brau, L., Goodwin, L., Han, J., Liolios, K., Huntemann, M., Pati, A., Woyke, T., Mavromatis, K., Markowitz, V., Ivanova, N., Kyrpides, N., Reeve, W., (2013), Genome sequence of Ensifer medicae strain WSM1369; an effective microsymbiont of the annual legume Medicago sphaerocarpos, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 2, pages 420 - 430.
  • Reeve, W., Tian, R., De Meyer, S., Melino, V., Terpolilli, J., Ardley, J., Tiwari, R., Howieson, J., Yates, R., O'Hara, G., Ninawi, M., Teshima, H., Bruce, D., Detter, C., Tapia, R., Han, C., Wei, C., Huntemann, M., Han, J., Chen, I., Mavromatis, K., Markowitz, V., Ivanova, N., Ovchinnikova, G., Pagani, I., Pati, A., Goodwin, L., Pitluck, S., Woyke, T., Kyrpides, N., (2013), Genome sequence of the clover-nodulating Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii strain TA1, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 2, pages 243 - 253.
  • Reeve, W., Melino, V., Ardley, J., Tian, R., De Meyer, S., Terpolilli, J., Tiwari, R., Yates, R., O'Hara, G., Howieson, J., Ninawi, M., Held, B., Bruce, D., Detter, C., Tapia, R., Han, C., Wei, C., Huntemann, M., Han, J., Chen, I., Mavromatis, K., Markowitz, V., Szeto, E., Ivanova, N., Mikhailova, N., Pagani, I., Pati, A., Goodwin, L., Woyke, T., Kyrpides, N., (2013), Genome sequence of the Trifolium rueppellianum - nodulating Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii strain WSM2012, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 2, pages 283 - 293.
  • Reeve, W., Terpolilli, J., Melino, V., Ardley, J., Tian, R., De Meyer, S., Tiwari, R., Yates, R., O'Hara, G., Howieson, J., Ninawi, M., Teshima, H., Bruce, D., Detter, C., Tapia, R., Han, C., Wei, C., Huntemann, M., Han, J., Chen, I., Mavrommatis, K., Markowitz, V., Ivanova, N., Ovchinnikova, G., Pagani, I., Pati, A., Goodwin, L., Peters, L., Woyke, T., Kyrpides, N., (2013), Genome sequence of the lupin-nodulating Bradyrhizobium sp. strain WSM1417, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 2, pages 273 - 282.
  • Reeve, W., De Meyer, S., Terpolilli, J., Melino, V., Ardley, J., Tian, R., Tiwari, R., Howieson, J., Yates, R., O'Hara, G., Ninawi, M., Lu, M., Bruce, D., Detter, C., Tapia, R., Han, C., Wei, C., Huntemann, M., Han, J., Chen, I., Mavromatis, K., Markowitz, V., Ivanova, N., Pagani, I., Pati, A., Goodwin, L., Woyke, T., Kyrpides, N., (2013), Genome sequence of the Ornithopus/Lupinus-nodulating Bradyrhizobium sp. strain WSM471, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 2, pages 254 - 263.
  • Reeve, W., Terpolilli, J., Melino, V., Ardley, J., Tian, R., De Meyer, S., Tiwari, R., Yates, R., O'Hara, G., Howieson, J., Ninawi, M., Held, B., Bruce, D., Detter, C., Tapia, R., Han, C., Wei, C., Huntemann, M., Han, J., Chen, I., Mavromatis, K., Markowitz, V., Ivanova, N., Ovchinnikova, G., Pagani, I., Pati, A., Goodwin, L., Woyke, T., Kyrpides, N., (2013), Genome sequence of the South American clover-nodulating Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii strain WSM597, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 2, pages 264 - 272.
  • Reeve, W., De Meyer, S., Terpolilli, J., Melino, V., Ardley, J., Tian, R., Tiwari, R., Howieson, J., Yates, R., O'Hara, G., Lu, M., Bruce, D., Detter, C., Tapia, R., Han, C., Wei, C., Huntemann, M., Han, J., Chen, I., Mavromatis, K., Markowitz, V., Szeto, E., Ivanova, N., Mikhailova, N., Ovchinnikova, G., Pagani, I., Pati, A., Goodwin, L., Peters, L., Pitluck, S., Woyke, T., Kyrpides, N., (2013), Genome sequence of the Lebeckia ambigua-nodulating "Burkholderia sprentiae" strain WSM5005, Standards in Genomic Sciences, 9, 2, pages 385 - 394.
  • Terpolilli, J. J., Hood, G. A. & Poole, P. S. (2012). What determines the efficiency of N2-fixing Rhizobium-Legume symbioses? Advances in Microbial Physiology 60, 325-389.
  • Mulley, G., Lopez-Gomez, M., Zhang, Y., Terpolilli, J., Prell, J., Finan, T. & Poole, P. (2010). Pyruvate is synthesized by two pathways in pea bacteroids with different efficiencies for nitrogen fixation. Journal of Bacteriology 192, 4944-4953.
  • Terpolilli, J. J., O’Hara, G. W., Tiwari, R. P., Dilworth, M. J. & Howieson, J. G. (2008). The model legume Medicago truncatula A17 is poorly matched for N2-fixation with the sequenced microsymbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti 1021.  New Phytologist. 179: 62-66.
  • Terpolilli, J. J., O’Hara, G. W., Tiwari, R. P., Dilworth, M. J. & Howieson, J. G. (2008) Investigating N2 fixation in the Medicago-Sinorhizobium symbiosis. In Dakora, F., Chimphango, S., Valentine, A., Elmerich, C., Newton, W. Proceedings of the 15th International N2 fixation Congress. Springer, Netherlands.  Pp 145-146.
  • Moeller, A., Horak, F., Lane, C., Knight, D., Kicic, A., Brennan, S., Franklin, P., Terpolilli, J., Wildhaber, J. Stick, S. (2006) Inducible NO synthase is low in airway epithelium from young children with cystic fibrosis.  Thorax. 61: 514-520.