The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research,

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Bergman campus, Hashalom St. 1.

POB 653, Beer-Sheva, 84105, Israel

Tel: 972-8-6472705, Fax: 972-8-6472984



Academic Status:

Associate Professor


·       Education 

B.Sc.-1978-1981-The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Agriculture, Rehovot.


M.Sc.-1982-1984- The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Agriculture, Rehovot.

Under the supervision of Prof. Joseph Riov and Dr. Amos Blumenfeld.

Thesis: Regulation of ethylene biosynthesis during avocado fruit ripening.


Ph.D.-1988-1993-The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Agriculture, Rehovot.

Under the supervision of Prof. Ilan Chet and Prof. Amos Oppenheim.

Thesis: Molecular studies for improving biological control of soil-borne plant pathogenic fungi.


·       Employment History

2004-Present    Scientist Rank 'B' at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research.

1999-2004       Scientist Rank 'C' at the Institutes for Applied Research.

1997-1999       Post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Plant Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel. Research Advisor: Prof. Avraham Levy.

1995-1997       Post-Doctoral fellow at the Department of Vegetable crops, Mann Lab, University of California, Davis. Research Advisor: Prof. Alan B. Bennett.

1993-1994       Post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Plant Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel. Research Advisor: Prof. Avraham Levy.

1986-1987       Research Assistant in the laboratory of Dr. A. Blumenfeld, at A.R.O


·       Recent publications (5 Years)

 Zaretsky, M., Sitrit, Y., Mills, D., Roth-Bejerano, N., and Kagan-Zur, V. (2006). Differential expression of fungal genes at preinfection and mycorrhiza establishment between Terfezia boudieri isolates and Cistus incanus hairy root clones. New Phytologist 171:837-846.

 Davidovich-Rikanati R, Sitrit Y, Tadmor Y, Iijima Y, Bilenko N, Bar E, Carmona B, Fallik E, Dudai N, Simon JE, Pichersky E, Lewinsohn E. (2007). Enrichment of tomato flavor by diversion of the early plastidial terpenoid pathway. Nature Biotechnology 25:899-901.

 Davidovich-Rikanati R, Lewinsohn E, Bar E, Iijima Y, Pichersky E, and Sitrit Y. (2008). Overexpression of the lemon basil a-zingiberene synthase gene increases both mono- and sesquiterpene contents in tomato fruit. The Plant Journal 56: 228–238.

 Ferdman Y, Sitrit Y, Li YF, Roth-Bejerano N, and Kagan-Zur V. (2009). Cryptic species in the Terfezia boudieri complex. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek International Journal 95:351-362.

 Krizevski R, Bar, E, Shalit O, Sitrit Y, Ben-Shabat S, and Lewinsohn E. (2010).
Composition and stereochemistry of ephedrine alkaloids accumulation in Ephedra sinica Stapf. Phytochemistry 71: 895–903.

 Turgeman T, Ben Asher J, Roth-Bejerano N, Kagan-Zur V, Kapulnik Y, Sitrit Y. (2011). Mycorrhizal association between the desert truffle Terfezia boudieri and Helianthemum sessiliflorum alters plant physiology and fitness to arid conditions. Mycorrhiza 21:623-630.

 Morris WL, Ducreux LJM, Shepherd T, Lewinsohn E, Davidovich-Rikanati R, Sitrit Y, Taylor MA. (2011). Utilisation of the MVA pathway to produce elevated levels of the sesquiterpene a-copaene in potato tubers. Phytochemistry 72:2288-2293.

 ·       Research Grants

2007-2011, BARD, PI Lewinsohn Efraim, Dudareva Natalia, Sitrit Yaron, Pichersky Eran. The molecular and biochemical basis of terpenoid aroma formation in tomato. For 3 years, $50,000/year, Total- $305,000.

2011-2013, The Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Agriculture Fund. PI Yaron Sitrit, Efraim Lewinsohn, Yoram Kapulnik, Rivka Hadas, Eli Zadi, Zion Shemer, Shimon Ben-Shabat. Development of the desert truffles Terfezia boudieri as a new crop for the Negev desert: establishment of host's gene-bank and infrastructure for commercial production of truffles. For 3 year, $57,000/year, Total $171,000.


·       Students


1. Ana Mitlin, Developing Agrobacterium transformation system for Terfezia boudieri

2. Ana Zlatkin, Chemical characterization of chemo-attractants secreted from Helianthemum ssesiliforum roots. 


1. Bihter Bayramoglu, Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, co-supervisors: Dr. Neomi Tel-Zur.


1. Mariela Leiderman, Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, co-supervisors: Dr. Shimon Ben-Shabat, Dr. E. Lewinsohn, A.R.O

2. Tidhar Turgeman, Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, co-supervisors: Prof. Varda Zur, Prof. Nurit Bejerano-Ruth.


Synopsis of Research

Studying mechanisms of plants adaptation to desert conditions employing modern tools of physiology, molecular biology, and metabolic engineering


The focus of the research I have developed during the last years has been on understanding the mechanisms involved in plants adaptation to desert conditions. The research topics include three main directions; (A) Introduction of new exotic plants fitted to desert conditions and developing new products and usages. (B) Identification of key genes involved in natural product formation, mainly aroma volatiles produced in fruits, and the biotechnological application of this knowledge through metabolic engineering mainly for cultivation under greenhouses and desert conditions. Metabolic engineering seems to be the most promising strategy to improve the quality of fruits that is usually inferior when plants are grown under desert conditions. (C) Developing desert truffles as a new crop for arid zones while studying the mycorrhizal interaction between the truffle and its host plant.


 Studies on truffles biology, genomics and development of truffles as new crops

In the last 4 years our laboratory has initiated a research program on the desert truffle Terfezia boudieri that forms mycorrhizal association with its host plant Helianthemum sessiliflorum. The fungus forms underground edible fruit bodies. Our practical goal is to develop the desert truffle as a new crop in the Negev desert. We also study the fungus physiology, ecology, and its contribution to its host performance in the desert. By using a state of the art technology (PTM machine) to determine photosynthesis activity, stomatal conductance and water balance we were able to show, for the first time, the diurnal patterns and how the fungus alters the host-plant physiology. Measuring the diurnal photosynthetic activity revealed that the activation energy required for photosynthesis is lower in inoculated plants, explaining the enhanced development of inoculated plants (Funded by the Ministry of Science). Currently, we started a genomic project to sequence the entire fungus genome in the frame of The European Community Sequencing Program 2011, Project Title: Exploring the Genome Diversity of Mycorrhizal Fungi to Understand the Evolution and Functioning of Symbiosis in Woody Shrubs and Trees. Proposal ID: 305. We also study chemo-attraction (identification of the chemo-attractants) and the interactions between the mycorrhizal partners at the pre-symbiotic phase and analyzing the tarnscriptomic profile of genes expressed when the fungus is grown under the impact of the chemo-attractants secreted from the host plant (paper in prep).