My research is aimed at understanding how aphids modify their host plants at the molecular level to enable successful infestations. Aphids are devastating plant sap-feeding insects. These insects cause direct feeding damage and transmit the majority of plant viruses, resulting in significant yield losses, particularly in staple food crops.

Aphid control relies on insecticides that are damaging to the environment and to which aphids can become resistant. To develop new control strategies we need to understand how these insects interact with plants at the cellular and molecular level.

Key questions herein are: Which plant cellular processes are perturbed by aphids and how does that enable infestation? What proteins, and potentially other molecules" do aphids “inject” into host plants to establish successful infestations? Can we use knowlegde on aphid effectors to generate crops with durable resistance?

Aphids, like plant microbial pathogens and nematodes, secrete effectors into their host plants to manipulate host cell processes and impact the ability to infest plants. These effectors are produced in the aphid salivary glands and secreted into the host during aphid feeding. Our lab is interested in understanding the functions of these proteins by identifying their plant targets, characterising their functions in susceptibility, and understanding how effecotr and target protein structures relate to function. We used a wide range of approaches, including structural biology, biochemistry, in planta functional assays for example to assess aphid performance upon over/ectopic expression of effectors and targets.

Our effector biology work mostly focuses on the aphid species Myzus persicae (green peach aphid), a major pest globally, but makes use of comparative genomics data of a wide range of aphid species.

In addition we are interested in identifying novel sources of crop resistance, predominantly in the cereal crop barley. 



Past research

Current: Research Leader, Cell and Molecular Sciences, The James Hutton Instittute (50% appointment) and Reader, Division of Plant Sciences (University of Dundee) (50% appointment)

October 2010 – 2016: Independent Research Fellow, The James Hutton Institute – Royal Society of Edinburgh/Scottish  Government Marie Curie Personal Research Fellowship 2010-2015. Joint appointment with the Division of Plant Sciences, University of Dundee.

November 2008 – October 2010: Post-doc, The John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK

October 2007 – November 2008: Post-doc, The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK

September 2003 – August 2007: PhD, The Ohio State University, Wooster OH, USA


Books / chapters

  • Birch, P.; Jones, J.; Bos, J.I. (eds). (2014) Plant-pathogen interactions: methods and protocols., Methods in Molecular Biology, Volume 1127. 2nd edition, Humana Press, New York, 306pp.
  • Bos, J.I.B.; Hogenhout, S.A. (2011) Effectors in plant-insect interactions., In: Martin, F. & Kamoun, S. (eds.). Effectors in Plant Microbe Interactions. Wiley-Blackwell, pp355-376.

Conference papers

  • Gilroy, E.M.; Armstrong, M.R.; Bos, J.; Taylor, R.; Morales, J.; Hein, I.; Douglas, E.; Boevink, P.; Avrova, A.O.; Breen, S.; van West, P.; Pritchard, L.; Whisson, S.C.; Sadanandom, A.; Kamoun, S.; Birch, P.R.J. (2009) Functional analysis of Phytophthora infestans RXLR effectors Avr2 and Avr3a., Fungal Genetics Conference, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, California, USA, 17-22 March 2009.
  • Birch, P.R.J.; Armstrong, M.R.; Gilroy, E.M.; Bos, J.; Taylor, R.M.; Morales, J.G.; Hein, I.; Douglas, E.; Boevink, P.; Breen, S.; Pritchard, L.; Whisson, S.C.; Sadanandom, A.; Kamoun, S. (2009) Localisation and function of Phytophthora infestans RXLR effectors and their host targets., XIV MPMI Conference, Montreal, Canada, 19-23 July 2009.

Conference posters / abstracts

  • Escudero-Martinez, C.; Leybourne, D.; Barakate, A.; Morris, J.; Hedley, P.; Stephens, J.; Bos, J. (2018) Understanding the basis of host and non-host defences during barley-aphid interactions., Phytopathology, 108, S1.247. Abstract.
  • Armstrong, M.R.; Whisson, S.C.; Pritchard, L.; Bos, J.I.B.; Venter, E.; Avrova, A.O.; Rehmany, A.P.; Huang, S.; Kamoun, S.; Beynon, J.; Birch, P.R.J. (2005) An ancestral oomycete locus contains late blight avirulence gene Avr3a, encoding a protein that is recognised in the host cell cytoplasm., Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions Conference, Merida, Mexico, 14-19 December 2005 (Poster).