As a research fellow at The Genome Analysis Centre, working in partnership with the John Innes Centre, my group focuses on applying a multidisciplinary approach to the study of plant pathogen interactions, integrating molecular genetics, microbiology, plant pathology, population genetics, genomics and data mining to improve our understanding of the molecular mechanisms at the plant pathogen interface.
We are especially interested in how pathogens adapt to changing environments such as new host genotypes. This can be studied in depth by characterizing and analyzing the genes encoding pathogen effector repertoires. Plant pathogens deliver effector proteins to their hosts to reprogram plant defense circuitry and enable parasitic colonization. On certain plant genotypes, effectors that act within the host cell can be recognized by immune receptors, encoded by resistance genes, which initiate defence responses. Increasing our understanding of the population dynamics and the evolution rate of (re-) emerging plant pathogens may enhance the deployment of effective resistant genotypes that fully embody the pathogens’ diversity.
Our research is focused on studying (re-) emerging plant pathogens that pose a significant threat to UK agriculture. For instance, we have numerous projects studying the wheat yellow rust pathogen, Puccinia striiformis f. sp tritici that is a substantial threat to wheat production worldwide and more recently re-emerged as a major constraint on UK agriculture.