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Lei Zhang

Botany and Plant Pathology 

  • Assistant Professor
Lilly Hall Room 1-422

 General Information


Dr. Zhang’s lab focuses on studying plant-nematode interactions with the aim of developing new tools for nematode management in agriculture.

Plant-parasitic nematodes are microscopic soil-borne roundworms, they infect and damage plant roots causing annual crop losses valued at $80-$118 billion worldwide. With most of front-line nematicides being banned due to their extreme toxicity, it is urgent to develop new methods for nematode control. We focus on two groups of plant-parasitic nematodes: 1) Soybean cyst nematode (SCN), the most damaging pathogen of soybean in the US. We study distributions and virulence of SCN populations on soybean fields in Indiana to provide information to growers for effective SCN management. We are also interested in developing new bio-control agents for SCN. 2) Root-knot nematodes (RKNs) cause serious problems in melons and vegetables in Indiana. RKNs secrete effector proteins to root cells to facilitate their infection of plants. Our lab focuses on studying how nematode effectors manipulate plant processes at molecular levels during parasitism. Our goal is to translate the knowledge and develop crop resistance against RKNs by disrupting the molecular plant-nematode interactions using technologies such as gene editing and host-delivered RNAi.


### There are open positions of a postdoctoral researcher and graduate students in Dr. Zhang’s lab. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Zhang for more information.

Selected Publications

Zhang, L. and Gleason, C.A. (2020) Enhancing potato resistance against root-knot nematodes using a plant elicitor peptide delivered by bacteria. Nature Plants 6, 625-629.

Zhang, L. and Gleason, C.A. (2019) Loop-mediated isothermal amplification for the diagnostic detection of Meloidogyne chitwoodi and M. fallax. Plant Disease 103:1, 12-18.

Leelarasamee, N., Zhang, L. and Gleason, C.A. (2018) The root-knot nematode effector MiPFN3 disrupts plant actin filaments and promotes parasitism. PLOS Pathogens 14(3): e1006947.

Gleason, C.A., Polzin, F., Habash, S.S., Zhang, L., Utermark, J., Grundler, F.M. and Elashry, A. (2017) Identification of two Meloidogyne hapla genes and an investigation of their roles in the plant-nematode interaction. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 30: 101-122.

Zhang, L., Davies, L.J. and Elling, A.A. (2015) A Meloidogyne incognita effector is imported into the nucleus and exhibits transcriptional activation activity in planta. Molecular Plant Pathology 16: 48-60.

Davies, L.J., Zhang, L. and Elling, A.A. (2015) The Arabidopsis thaliana papain-like cysteine protease RD21 interacts with a root-knot nematode effector protein. Nematology 17: 655-666.

Zhang, L., et al. (2014). Calcium signaling and biotic defense responses in plants. Plant Signaling & Behavior 9(11): e973818.

Zhang, L., et al. (2014). Regulation of plant immunity through ubiquitin-mediated modulation of Ca(2+) -calmodulin-AtSR1/CAMTA3 signaling. Plant Journal 78(2): 269-281.

Professional Memberships

Society of Nematologists

American Phytopathological Society

Botany and Plant Pathology, 915 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA, (765) 494-4614

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