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Eleanor Gilroy

Staff picture: Eleanor Gilroy
Cell and Molecular Sciences
Cell and Molecular Sciences
Molecular Plant Pathologist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK


Current research interests

  • Investigating the virulence function of Avr2
  • Exploring crosstalk between development and plant disease resistance
  • Dissecting the role of light signalling in plant immunity
  • Phytophthora rubi: Insight into root rot of Raspberry

Investigating the virulence function of Avr2 and host targets in the Brassinosteroid (BR) Pathway

The PiAVR2 effector from Phytophthora infestans is known to be recognised by at least ten members of the largest family of NB-LRR genes in potato, known as the R2 family and unrelated NB-LRRs from another locus. All P. infestans isolates examined thus far either possess PiAvr2 or a diverged form of PiAVR2, known as Avr2-like. Avr2-like has been amplified from isolates of P. infestans that can grow on R2 containing potatoes, and have shown to evade recognition by many R2 family members.  No natural resistances have been identified thus far that recognise Avr2-like, providing a huge opportunity to engineer resistance to P. infestans using synthetic biology or CRISPR/CAS9 techniques. Initially, we found one ser/thr phosphatase, BSU1-like 1 (BSL1), to be essential for R2 function (Saunders et al., 2012).  Our discovery that R2 recognition of Avr2 is lost after silencing of target BSL1 is the first demonstration that a host effector target is necessary for the hypersensitive response in the potato-P. infestans system. The next obvious question is what manipulation of the host by PiAVR2 are the R2 family of NB-LRR detecting?

In addition, we have been investigating the virulence function of PiAvr2 and belief it activates the BR pathway to upregulate particular transcription factors that act as negative regulators of the early response to PAMPs in plants, known as PAMP-triggered immunity (PTI).

We also have been gathering evidence that PiAVR2 interacts with other Solanum tuberosum family members of this unique kelch-repeat containing phosphatase family (BSU1-like). Most functional characterisation of role of the BSL phosphatases in the BR pathway has been performed on BSU1 in the model plant, Arabidopsis. A recent key observation found BSU1 to be specific to the Brassicaceae family of plants which P. infestans cannot infect.  We believe examination of the role of the BSL family in the absence of BSU1 is important to understand the function of the BR pathway, its crosstalk with PTI and how the mechanism by which it is guarded by the R2 family.  This is subject of current investigations in the lab.

Dissecting the role of light signalling in plant immunity

Light is essential for regulating every aspect of plant growth and development. Recent studies have revealed that light quality and duration can influence plant immune response onset as well as the virulence of some pathogens. We have evidence that some RxLR effectors from P. infestans manipulate light signalling pathways by interacting with host targets that putatively play roles in signalling responses to both blue and red light.

I am currently investigating the role of light quality, intensity and duration on plant defense pathways by using P. infestans effectors as tools to highlight signalling pathways targeted for manipulation.

Phytophthora rubi: Insight into root rot of Raspberry

At least 90 species of Phytophthora have been isolated from a wide range of horticultural crop plants worldwide and improvements in molecular diagnostics are continually identifying more. Although several species of Phytophthora can infect raspberry (P. syringae, P. drechsleri, P. cactorum, P. cambivora and P. megasperma), P. rubi is the causal agent of the devastating root rot and cane death disease in raspberry.  P. rubibelongs to clade 7 of the Phytophthora (“plant destroyer”) phylogeny along with other root rot causing Phytophthoras of warmer climates such as P. cinnamomi and P. sojae.

Raspberry root rot disease, first identified in Europe in the 1980s, is now a widespread contaminant of established raspberry plantations and the disease, once established is extremely difficult to control. The major impact of root rot disease is causing a rapid decline in raspberry plantations grown in soil by more than 70%. Farmers worldwide are being driven to switch to annual replenishment of pot-based systems or adapting to growing alternative fruit crops. Europe is the largest producer of raspberries worldwide and the industry (worth est. €2.2 billion) is being devastated by root rot disease. See Raspberry genetics for more information.

Understanding how organisms distinguish friend from foe is one of the key and fascinating questions in biology. I am currently building a team to investigate the population genomics of P. rubi, determine its pathogenicity arsenal and better understand the enigmatic relationship between root infecting oomycetes and the host rhizosphere. Visit the following pages for more information: Julie Graham, Craig Simpson, Ingo Hein and Steve Whisson.

Past research

Genomia Fund (2013-2016) with Industrial Support

  • Activating and guarding the Brassinosteroid pathway as a novel means to protect plants against disease.

The James Hutton Institute Seed Corn Fund  (2012-2014) “Exploiting the potato genome sequence to understand the interface between plant development and abiotic/biotic stress responses”


  • Feechan, A.; Turnbull, D.; Stevens, L.J.; Engelhardt, S.; Birch, P.R.J.; Hein, I.; Gilroy, E.M. (2015) The hypersensitive response in PAMP- and effector-triggered immune responses., In: Gunawardena, A. & McCabe, P. (eds.). Plant Programmed Cell Death. Springer, New York, Chapter 10, pp235-258.
  • Toth, I.K.; Moleleki, L.N.; Pritchard, L.; Liu, H.; Humphris, S.N.; Hyman, L.; Axelsen, G.W.; Brurberg, M.B.; Ravensdale, M.; Gilroy, E.M.; Birch, P.R.J. (2006) Erwiniae: genomics and the secret life of a plant pathogen., In: Bailey, M.J., Lilley, A.K., Timms-Wilson, T.M. & Spencer-Phillips, P.T.N. (eds.). Microbial Ecology of Aerial Plant Surfaces. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, pp191-201.

  • Hrubikova, K.; Gilroy, E.M.; Faivre-Rampant, O.; Loake, G.; Birch, P.R.J.; Taylor, M.A.; Lacomme, C. (2003) Viral induced gene silencing in crop species., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2002/2003, pp98-99.

Printed from /staff/eleanor-gilroy on 02/02/23 09:19:36 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.