Borja Sánchez

Borja Sánchez

session, year:
2013 1st

Former fellow

Receiving laboratory:
Plant Communities and Biological Invaders in Tropical Environment, Reunion Island

Country of origin:


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Mobility project

Evolving BDB host range

How do some pathogenic bacteria increase their repertoire of virulence genes and adapt to new host plants? The Ralstonia solanacearum (Rs) species complex provides unique models for studying plant-pathogen interactions, including basic biology of pathogenesis and non-host resistance in the context of an unusually broad host range and latent (asymptomatic) infection. This organism is a high-impact pathogen of economically important cash and industrial crops like tomato, potato, banana, and ornamentals. Moreover, it is spreading globally and adapting to new hosts, increasing its threat potential. Rs is a quarantine pathogen, dual use in Europe and bioterrorism select agent in the USA. The project will examine bacterial speciation and emergent properties using our collective expertise on the complex genetic diversity and evolution of Rs. Our group has developed the significant genomic resource of 26 Rs genomes - including the Blood Disease Bacterium (BDB) and R. syzygii (Rsy) a pathogen of clove - establishing a partial pangenome. However, the observed variations in pathogenicity could not be explained with comparative genomic analyses of known and likely pathogenicity determinants, or by assortment patterns of conserved hypothetical proteins. This suggests that key biological differences among strains may be explained by differential expression of genes. We therefore propose to use transcriptomic analysis to identify functions that are differentially expressed in particular hosts.  What traits does a BDB strain need to solely infect banana and what is missing to be a successful tomato pathogen? We will examine and compare the pathogen RNA sets present in bananas infected with BDB during its compatible interaction, as well as the Rs RNA sets present in alternative compatible hosts like tomato. Functional genomic follow-up experiments will quantify the specific roles of identified traits in the plant-microbe interaction and will elucidate the characteristics that make this dual use quarantine organism so difficult to manage.

Biography & research interests

I completed my undergraduate degree in Plant Physiology at the University of Oviedo and my PhD at IPLA-CSIC. The purpose of my PhD thesis work was to gain molecular and physiological insights into the mechanisms of response of bifidobacteria to gastrointestinal stress factors (mainly acid pH and bile salts). This ended in the identification of protein targets and functions whose validity was further confirmed by physiological approaches. I have a postdoctoral position in the IPLA-CSIC since May 2009, and I am developing my work in the group of Probiotics and Prebiotics. I am working on the identification of extracellular proteins produced by probiotic bacteria, with relevant roles in the molecular cross-talking with the host, notably in immunomodulation. In addition, we are working on the intestinal metagenomics of specific human populations, such as Lupus patients, allergy or premature babies. My AgreenSkills postdoc gave me the opportunity to bring out my skills and knowledge in bacteriology and metagenomics to bacterial pathology of plants. I have been recruited in 2015 as lecturer in University of Vigo in Spain, and I am senior scientist in the National Research Council of Spain from 2017.

Selected publications

Delgado, S., Ruiz, L., Hevia, A., Ruas-Madiedo, P., Margolles, A., Sánchez, B., 2018. Evidence of the In Vitro and In Vivo Immunological Relevance of Bifidobacteria. In “The Bifidobacteria and Related Organisms”. 295-305. Doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-805060-6.00018-1.

Ruiz L, Delgado S, Ruas-Madiedo P, Sánchez, B, Margolles A., 2017. Bifidobacteria and Their Molecular Communication with the Immune System. Front Microbiol. 4;8:2345. Doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.02345.

Blanco-Míguez A., Gutiérrez-Jácome A., Fdez-Riverola F., Lourenço A., Borja Sánchez B.*, 2017. MAHMI database: a comprehensive MetaHit-based resource for the study of the mechanism of action of the human microbiota. Database-The journal of biological databases and curation. 2017:baw157. Doi: 10.1093/database/baw157.

Blanco-Míguez A., Fdez-Riverola F., Lourenço, A. Sánchez B.*, 2017. P4P: a peptidome-based strain-level genome comparison web tool. Nucleic Acids Res. 45: W265-W269. Doi:10.1093/nar/gkx389.

Hidalgo-Cantabrana C., Moro-García, M.-A. BlancoMíguez A., Fdez-Riverola F., Lourenço A. Alonso-Arias, R. Sánchez B.*, 2017. In silico screening of the human gut metaproteome identifies Th17-promoting peptides encrypted in proteins of commensal bacteria. Frontiers in Microbiology. 8:1726. Doi: 10.3389/ fmicb.2017.01726.

Aitor Blanco-Míguez, Jan P. Meier-Kolthoff, Alberto Gutiérrez-Jácome, Markus Göker, Florentino FdezRiverola, Borja Sánchez*, Anália Lourenço, 2016. Improving phylogeny reconstruction at the strain level using peptidome datasets. PLoS Computational Biology. 12(12): e1005271.


Awards & patents

Two world patents (transferred to Imperial Innovations Ltd., WO 2013034795 A1 and Microviable Therapeutics SL) and two national patents (registered; P201131138 and P201630176).

Prize “Radar 2016” to the best enterprising project of biotechnological background

Prize of the Spanish Association Against Cancer 2016, for the project entitled: “Identification of bioactive peptides against Colo-rectal Cancer from gut microbiomes”.

Prize “CEEI 2016” to the best Biotechnology Enterprise (Microviable Therapeutics SL).


Ralstonia solanacearum, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, host range, virulence, banana, tomato, bacterial wilt