Molecular plant pathology

We investigate the fundamental mechanisms by which pathogens and pests infect or colonise plants and the means by which plants defend themselves. Our research falls into five broad themes:

  • Molecular virulence strategies – how pest and pathogen virulence factors (effectors) manipulate host immunity and metabolism to create a susceptible environment.
  • Infection biology – how pest and pathogen development, infection biology, and genetic dynamics enables host colonisation and spread.
  • Host immunity – how does the immune system work, with a special emphasis on how membrane biology influences host recognition and signalling.
  • Plant resistance – how does host and nonhost resistance work; what is recognised in the pest or pathogen; and how durable is resistance likely to be if deployed in the field?
  • Synthetic biology and industrial biochemical engineering– development of novel products and processes including animal vaccine formulations, plant expression of heterologous proteins and new composite materials.
Nematode: Rice root

Our research themes connect to, and are supported by, a range of industrial stakeholders. Our work also links strongly to the institute programme on potato genetics and disease resistance.  We aim to deliver:

  • New pest and pathogen targets for agrochemical and biotechnological control of disease.
  • New approaches to strengthen or improve plant immunity.
  • New approaches to control pathogen spread.
  • New sources of durable disease resistance.
  • New biotechnological products and processes.
Pinfestans haustoria
Pinfestans infection
Aphid Adult and Nymphs

Pest and pathogen biology (Steve Whisson, John Jones, Jorunn Bos and Eleanor Gilroy)
Pest and pathogen cell biology (Petra Boevink, Alison Roberts and Jens Tilsner)
Effector-target interactions and immune manipulation (Paul Birch, Jorunn Bos, John Jones and Eleanor Gilroy)
Effector secretion and delivery (Paul Birch, Steve Whisson, Petra Boevink and Jorunn Bos)
Host immunity (Piers Hemsley and Jens Tilsner)
Host and nonhost disease resistance (Jorunn Bos, Eugene Ryabov, Paul Birch, John Jones, Ingo Hein and Eleanor Gilroy)
Impact of genetic variability and evolutionary dynamics of viruses on pathogenicity (Eugene Ryabov and Alison Roberts)
Synthetic biology and industrial biochemical engineering (Andrew Love)