Does plant defense signaling discriminate between types of pests?
Plant defenses against different pests can exhibit trade-offs, since certain responses may benefit the plant in one interaction (e.g. cell death against a biotrophic bacterial pathogen) but compromise its resistance in another interaction (e.g. allow colonization by a necrotrophic fungus). Antagonism between different plant defense hormones is well-established, but early signaling divergence in biotrophic vs. necrotrophic defense responses is less studied. I am comparing responses to different defense elicitors at several scales to understand early signaling antagonisms and how these might be manipulated by different attackers, including caterpillars and bacteria.
Can immune receptors be predicted and transferred across crop species?
Plant genomes encode hundreds of membrane receptors, which can respond to diverse ligands to signal both developmental and defensive responses. Given a novel plant genome, can we predict which receptors serve roles in development versus pest recognition? I use comparative genomics, examining immune receptor repertoires across related plant species, with the goal of understanding how immune functions evolve and informing prediction pipelines for novel immune receptors. Since many such receptors are recently evolved (unique to certain taxa), transferring immune recognition "nodes" across crop species should allow expanded recognition of plant pests.