Research in Mengiste lab focuses on molecular
mechanisms of plant resistance to important fungal pathogens which reduce crop
productivity. Key genetic regulators of plant resistance are identified and
their functions studied in the model plant Arabidopsis, and two crop plants
tomato and sorghum. Through genetic, molecular, and biochemical approaches, we
determine how selected components regulate plant immune responses to fungal resistance.
Molecular and biochemical mechanisms of early plant responses to infection are
studied with a focus on the role of tomato receptor like cytoplasmic kinases. How plants activate immune gene expression, and
the role of transcription regulators, co-regulators, and enzymes that regulate
histone epigenetic marks are studied though a combination of genetic and
genomic tools. In
parallel, attempts are made to translate some of the findings into genetic
improvement of crops. In sorghum, the natural variation is being explored to
identify genes or genomic regions that confer broad-spectrum resistance to
anthracnose and grain mold diseases that are major fungal diseases of the crop.
Ultimately, the goal is to generate improved
disease control strategies by generating tools and knowledge that expedite resistance
Current Research Focus:
response signaling- the role of receptor like cytoplasmic kinases,
transcription regulators, co-regulators, chromatin modifying enzymes and
histone epigenetic marks in fungal and bacterial resistance in Arabidopsis and
control of fungal resistance in sorghum - identify resistance genes or loci that
confer broad-spectrum resistance to anthracnose with the ultimate goal of genetic
improvement for pathogen resistance.