Credentials: Plant Pathology Department
Position title: Plant fungal interactions; stress tolerance, programmed cell death
My overall goal is to gain a better understanding of necrotrophic fungal pathogenesis that will lead to suitable control strategies. Plant associated fungi and oomycetes have adopted different lifestyles and strategies to achieve pathogenic success. Necrotrophic pathogens by definition require dead host cells for nutrient acquisition. The necrotrophic fungal pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum secrete oxalic acid, a key virulence factor that induces Programmed Cell Death (PCD) in the host. This pathogen has a wide host range that cover many broadleaf crops, including economically vital crops to the state of Wisconsin such as soybeans and snap beans.
The inhibition of PCD in plants has shown great promise in limiting necrotrophic fungal infections and conferring resistance to a range of abiotic and biotic insults. I am interested in identifying how animal Inhibitors of Apoptosis regulate cell death processes in plants. My lab focuses on the Inhibbitor of Apoptosis (IAP) family, IAPs serve as endogenous inhibitors of apoptosis by binding and inhibiting caspases. However, our knowledge of caspase function in plants is limited, and there is an ongoing debate whether plants possess “true” caspases. Therefore, the question remains as to how IAPs can confer stress tolerance in plants.