Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences

Professor of Molecular Plant Pathology



+44 (0)20 7594 5384p.spanu Website




610Sir Alexander Fleming BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Our research group is interested in the molecular biology, development and pathogenicity of filamentous fungi that infect plants.   We are currently focussing our attention on Blumeria graminis, the fungus that causes powdery mildew on barley and wheat.  


Barley powdery mildew

Barley powdery mildew


The BBSRC funded the whole genome sequencing of the barley pathogen B. graminis f sp hordei. In collaboration with colleagues world-wide, we published the first results in 2010 (Spanu et al, 2010) and a further, in-depth analysis, of the genes encoding effectors of pathogenicity (Pedersen, et al 2012).

Our group’s current focus is on the functional characterisation of powdery mildew effectors and the understanding of the how these effectors work in modulating the host’s  immunity and metabolism (Bindschedler et al 2009, 2011; Pliego et al, 2013; Pennington etc al 2019; Przydacz et al 2020).

The most recent developments of our research has been in exploring the role of smallRNA in signalling between pathogenic fungi and their plant hosts. This work is currently ongoing.



Prof Roger P Wise, USDA, Ames, Iowa, Powdery Mildew Effector Biology

Prof Adam Bogdanove, USDA, Ames, Iowa, Powdery Mildew Effector Biology

Dr Donal O'Sullivan, National Insititute of Agriculture Botany (NIAB), Cambridge, Powdery Mildew Effector Biology

Prof Hans Thordal-Christensen, University of Copenhagen, Powdery Mildew Effector Biology

Prof MH Lebrun, Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Paris, Powdery Mildew Genomics

Prof Beat Keller, University of Zurich, Powdery Mildew Genomics

Prof Patrick Schweizer, IPK- Gatersleben, Germany, Powdery Mildew Effector Biology

Prof Ralph Panstruga, RWTH Aachen University, Genomics of powdery mildews and powdery mildew effectors

Prof JK Brown, John Innes Centre, Norwich, Powdery Mildew Genomics

Prof Paul Schulze Lefert, Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding, Cologne, Powdery Mildew Genomics

Guest Lectures

RNAse-Like Proteins associated with Haustoria: Pathogen effectors central to plant immunomodulation, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany, 2013

The blumeria Genome: how a long and intimate association with a plant host moulded the mildew’s genes, XVI Congreso Nacional de la SEF September 2012, Malaga, Spanin, 2012

Messages from powdery mildew DNA: how interplay with the host moulds the pathogen genomes, 13th ICRPMC, Beijing, China, 2012

Messages from powdery mildew DNA: how interplay with the host moulds the pathogen genomes, IS-MPMI 2012 XV International Congress, Kyoto, Japan, 2012

Research Student Supervision

Bonciani,G, Population biology and microevolution of Powdery Mildew effectors

Pennington,H, The interactors of the powdery mildew effector BEC1054