Research in my lab focuses on molecular mechanisms of plant responses to economically important fungal pathogens which reduce crop productivity worldwide. Critical genetic components of plant resistance are identified through genetic and genomic approaches in the model plant Arabidopsis, and two crop plants tomato and sorghum. By applying genetic, molecular, and biochemical approaches, we seek to determine how these key components regulate plant immune responses required for resistance. Molecular and biochemical mechanisms of tomato resistance are studied with a focus on the role of tomato receptor like kinases, and their substrates to shed light on tomato immune responses to broad host fungal pathogens. In parallel, attempts are made to translate some of the findings into genetic improvement of crops for disease resistance. In sorghum, the natural variation in the germplasm is being explored to identify genes or genomic regions that confer broad-spectrum resistance to anthracnose and grain mold diseases. The overarching goal is to expedite genetic improvement of sorghum to increase productivity in disease prone sorghum producing regions.
Current research areas
· Arabidopsis immune response signaling, including the role of receptor kinases, transcription regulators and co-regulators, and chromatin modification in fungal and bacterial resistance.
· Molecular mechanisms of tomato resistance to fungal pathogens, with a focus on role of receptor like kinases, regulators of induced systemic resistance to gray mold disease caused by Botrytis cinerea and early blight caused by Alternaria solani.
· Genetic improvement of sorghum for resistance to fungal pathogens.
Mechanisms of sorghum resistance to the parasitic weed Striga hermonthica.