MANIPULATION OF PLANT IMMUNITY AND AUTOPHAGY BY PATHOGENS
Many filamentous plant pathogens including fungi and oomycetes are accommodated within the host cells through specialized cellular structures. For instance, some filamentous plant pathogens form specialized infection structures termed haustoria to deliver effector proteins that can modulate host immunity or mediate nutrient uptake. However, little is known about molecular mechanisms underlying microbial accommodation inside the plant cells. Our aim is to characterize the host processes required for accommodation of filamentous plant pathogens inside the plant cells with a specific focus on illustrating the role of plant endomembrane transport system and identify perturbations caused by the pathogens.
These processes have been difficult to dissect using standard genetic approaches due to overlap between focal immunity and plant development. We recently discovered that some of the Pathogen secreted effectors specifically accumulate around haustoria (perihaustorial effectors) and provide an excellent alternative to study plant focal immunity (Bozkurt et al., 2011, Saunders et al., 2012).
We deploy perihaustorial effectors as molecular probes and use a multifaceted approach including cell biology, biochemical and genetic methods to investigate the mechanisms and perturbations in host endomembrane system within the plant cells that accommodate haustoria.
More recently, our work on effector biology shed light on how plant pathogens manipulate autophagy to enable infection. This work highlighted the extensive remodeling of endomembrane compartments during plant-microbe interactions and opened up novel perspectives in understanding the role of autophagy in plant immunity.
We mainly use haustoria forming oomycete pathogens such as Phytophthora infestans and Peronospora tabacina as well as some fungal species, which can infect the model solanaceous plant Nicotiana benthamiana.
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